Hundreds of law enforcement and first responders canvassed Brown County Tuesday night visiting various community gathers as part of the 35th annual National Night Out.

Brown County residents hosted more than 40 community block parties and other associated events as part of National Night Out, where citizens get to know each other and law enforcement and first responders make brief visits so communities can build strong bonds while getting to know those who oversee their safety.

“It’s very important. We already met the people on the backside of us and, of course we met the neighbors beside us, but we finally get a chance to meet the neighbors on the street behind us the people we share an alley with,” said Ashley Harrington, who attended a party hosted by neighbor Sharon Cook. “It’s important kids to have the police and firemen around in case something scary happens maybe they will be more familiar and know they are just friendly too.”

Recently hired Howard Payne University Officer Scott Poole used the event as an opportunity to introduce himself to the students and staff members. Having joined the campus police department only two week prior to the event, he believes being familiar with citizens allows him to be more approachable when it comes to reporting crimes, which then enhances campus safety for all.

“It’s always good that you mix it up with people and get to know them on a first-name basis,” Poole said. “You have to open that line of communication up. People need to know they can come to the police if they need to and the best way to let them know is to meet people. You have to have an open door policy. Don’t be afraid of the police. If you ever need anything, then it helps to know that we’re here.”

Cook said she has been hosting National Night Out parties for three years. An hour into the three-hour event she reporting already having 35 guests with numerous police, fire and paramedics dropping by for chili. She believes National Night Out helps neighbors establish communication, which is the first line of defense in avoiding a potentially dangerous situation.

“The first time they offered it was the year I started and that is how I got at the top of the list,” Cook said. “Every year they call me first … We have food, music and games and I deliver [fliers] to the neighbors and they come out. We text each other quite frequently if we hear noises – are you home? Did you see something? We developed our own Facebook page that way if they want to add pictures of the neighborhood we offer that. We text each other if we want to know about anything or just want to have fun and say come on over.”