North Bergen celebrates National Night Out Officials, police, residents show unity against crime

More than 30 volunteering police officers, along with Mayor Nicholas Sacco, gave crime prevention tips Tuesday night as part of the National Night Out against crime. They also attended a street fair from 73rd to 75th street on Broadway.

The National Night Out Against Crime is one of many events created by the National Association of Town Watch to raise awareness about crime and drug prevention in communities across the country.

“I saw so many police officers and thought, ‘What is going on?’ ” said resident Angela Gamarra outside LaTour’s Deli on Seventh and Grand Avenue last week.

Sacco and the police, along with Commissioner Theresa Ferraro, stopped to talk to residents about their community concerns and to treat children to glow sticks and a visit from McGruff the Crime Dog.

“He’s amazing,” said Janysa Infante about McGruff, as other children crowded around. Captain Robert Dowd said that about 30 percent of the police force gives their time at the event in order to make a presence in their community.

“It’s important for the children to be relaxed with the local police officers,” said LaTour, who is also a member of the Board of Education. “They have to realize that the man in uniform is their friend.”

Patrol Division Commander Gerald Sanzari said that the event was an opportunity for the public to see the police in a different atmosphere and light.

Adults also were able to talk with Sacco and police about any issues they felt were important in the community.

A resident who had experienced a recent break-in was introduced to two officers by Captain Robert Dowd. One of the officers’ parents lived next door to the resident. The other was the detective assigned to the case.

“It’s nice to meet them face to face and spend some time with them, and reassure them that we are interested in what’s going on,” said Dowd.

Most successful Night Out

Sacco said that the event was the most organized and successful to date since the event began in the 1980s. He also said he agreed with some of the concerns that residents brought up.

“There was one [resident] that talked about a local store in the area that was open later and they didn’t think it should be, so we have the police looking at it with the building department,” said Sacco. “Mostly people were saying hello. It was a pleasant evening.”

Police also made stops at a street fair, where a karate self-defense exhibition and narcotic dog demonstration took place.

In addition, a block party was held at the housing authority on Grand Avenue.

Essie Kolodinsky said she was happy with the annual event, while her daughter scaled an inflatable rock-climbing wall at the Grand Avenue party.

“My daughter has a smile from here to here,” said Kolodinsky.

Drug-sniffing dog demo

Hudson county correction officers Leon Davis and Frank Perez showed a packed crowd how their partners, black labs Scotty and Mugsy, assist them in finding drugs.

His female black Labrador retriever, Scotty, was more on the playful side, while Mugsy found the hidden “contraband” right away.

“To them it’s just a game,” said Perez.”[The dogs] know they get to play when they show us where it is.”

Davis, who routinely teaches Hudson County children about drug prevention, said that he was really happy with the large turnout.

“Every year, it seems to be growing a little bit,” said Davis. “I think we got an extra block this year.”

Gina Caballero loved watching the dog demonstration and said that it showed the true side of police work.

‘It’s amazing!’

Target manager Mohamed Ghoul, along with his volunteer staff, was present at the 73rd Street fair to raffle off a brand-new bike, along with other items.

Idaliz Cristan teared up after taking photos with her new bicycle.

“It’s amazing,” she said.

Barbara Natali, who came out to enjoy herself, said that the children were really the life of the party.

While the event’s giveaways and entertainment were enjoyed by attendees, so was its informative focus on crime prevention.

A police truck was present, allowing children to jump up and see how their camera system and bulletproof shields are used.

Officer Lou Romano showed children the actual weight of guns while allowing them to hold models.

“They’re a little shy at first, but then we coach [the children in] and they think it’s cool,” said Romano.

Nicole Correra said that she enjoyed learning from Romano.

“I want to be a police officer,” said Correra.

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