WILKES-BARRE – Seated under a large white canopy that shielded them from the afternoon sun, a team of GAR cheerleaders clad in hot pink shirts were busy helping children decide which picture should be painted onto their cheeks.
This was just one of the many scenes at Public Square as the Wilkes-Barre Crime Watch Coalition held its annual National Night Out on Sunday, offering everything from food and raffles to speakers, vendors, tours and more.
Event organizer and coalition president Charlotte Raup explained the purpose of the event is to not only inform the public about the coalition, which has 13 crime watch groups scattered around the city, but to assist in closing the divide between residents and first responders by offering each a chance to interact.
This year’s Night Out theme was “Remember When.” Raup said she chose the theme to help mimic a time when neighbors were friendly with one another and worked together to reduce crime in their streets – something she thinks could help reduce crime now.
After opening remarks s by Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George and a rendition of the National Anthem by U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, and state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, Cartwright asked a series of questions to audience members.
“At night when you are sleeping, do you sleep in the comfort knowing you are safe?,” he asked. “Anybody that puts on an emergency suit … they are sworn, they take an oath to serve and protect. And they deserve our respect.”
Speaking with a group, former radio personality and state house candidate Sue Henry agreed that the Night Out helps bring the community together while breaking stereotypes.
“I think this is a terrific event to bring people together. Sometimes you don’t know who your neighbors are anymore, and you may be wary. But this is a place where you can maybe even see people who live in your neighborhood and (interact),” she said.
As Wilkes-Barre Councilman Tony Brooks took a group on a historic tour of Public Square, Hanover Township resident Beverly Mislivets lauded the work of the city’s first responders.
“We like to support them. I think they’re doing a good job at trying,” she said. “We have more crime moving in from other areas, and they have a tough job ahead of them. But they’re out there.”
Crime watch meetings are held monthly and are available to view on the city’s calendar. For more information, visit the Wilkes-Barre City Crime Watch Coalition on Facebook.
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