National Night Out helps law enforcement build trust in San Bernardino

Photo/Anthony Victoria: San Bernardino County Firefighter Matt Balteria participating in a sack race with young residents during the National Night Out event at Núñez Park in San Bernardino on Aug. 1. National Night Out brings together public safety personnel and residents for a night of networking and fun.
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The stormy weather failed to deter people from going out to celebrate National Night Out in San Bernardino on August 1.

Scores of people visited San Bernardino High School and Nunez Park on Tuesday to partake in sack racing, dancing, and taco eating with public safety personnel and community leaders.

National Night Out, which has been celebrated on the first Tuesday in August since the early 1980s, focuses on bridging the communication gaps between law enforcement and residents.

Lt. Mike Madden with the San Bernardino Police Department said the annual event is an opportunity for neighborhoods to come together and show support for one another.

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“All too often we find we get caught up in the negative things,” Madden said. “Events like this, if they can bring people out and [encourage] them to talk to each other, is a win-win.”

Madden, who oversees the department’s community affairs division, said he’s dedicated ample time to strengthening relationships with residents to build and maintain their trust.

“The police are there for the people,” he said. “When you have the lack of communication and that lack of trust, it becomes harder for us to do our jobs effectively. The last thing I want is for a law-abiding citizen of our community to not trust or believe in their police department. We need to have those open doors.”

Sandra Ibarra, President of the San Bernardino High School Neighborhood Association, said she helped organize the event at Cardinal City to expose her neighbors to local leaders and other city residents .

“People are afraid to come out into the community because of the high crime,” Ibarra explained. “A lot of neighbors don’t talk to each other, they don’t know about the public safety efforts in the community. This event exposes them to that.”

Councilwoman Virginia Marquez echoed Ibarra’s thoughts.

“When I came into office in 2010 we didn’t have National Night Out…we didn’t even have neighborhood associations,” expressed Marquez. “This is a fun event to let everyone know who we are and who the public safety is.”

Resident Ben Munoz hopes public safety officers and city officials will hold more “community block parties” to interact with residents.

“If we continue to do this a little more frequently, the community will be more receptive,” he said. “One on one relationships are important.”

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