KENNETT SQUARE >> Police officers may be on the attack nationwide, but in Kennett Square, children and young adults put the police on a pedestal.
The Sixth Annual National Night Out in Kennett Square attracted scores of law enforcement, state lawmakers, community members, borough officials and even county commissioners to East Linden Street, which not too long ago was a drug-infested and crime-ridden area. It is the first year it is held in cooperation with neighboring Kennett Township Police Department.
“It’s been a tough year for our police officers all around the nation,” said Rep. Steve Barrar. “It’s so nice to see the community come out and rally around them. The police need to know you have their back, and you need to report crimes to them. This is a great model of community policing right here.”
Chuck Gaza, chief of staff at the county’s District Attorney’s office, said Kennett Square has gone from being a normal, run-of-the-mill community to something special.
“Kennett Square has been on the Travel Channel, the Food Network, and you have the Mushroom Fest, the Mushroom Drop, and the Brew Fest,” Gaza said. “You are a destination for people to come to and that is because you have worked together, and your police force has been there every step of the way supporting you. There were places and pockets that brought down this town at one time, but you guys worked together, and now you are held up as a model, a standard for other communities.”
Ed Zunino, former police chief who announced his retirement this week after 40 years, said he was proud to see what East Linden Street has become.
“Since I started, there have been a lot of changes in this community,” Zunino said. “And all for the better. I am really proud to be a part of that.”
Kennett Square Ptl. Maurice Boyer said he enjoys driving down the streets in Kennett Square and smiling, and having the children smile back.
“I think Whitney Houston said it best when she said I believe the children are the future and let them lead the way,” he said. “That’s what’s happening here.”
Terence Farrell, county commissioner, said the way policing is done in Kennett Square and Kennett Township should be a model for the nation.
“This really is a model of the way policing should be done,” he said. “To get the children involved now and have them understand the importance of being a part of the solution and not part of the problem really is key.”
Matt Fetick, Kennett Square mayor, said the community is only as strong as its relationship with the police department.
“We are lucky to have a fine police department,” he said. “I think what’s next for Kennett Square is awesome. If every part of the community becomes like East Linden Street, Kennett Square would be unstoppable.”
Tuesday night’s event was part of a national effort in August known as the National Night Out. The National Night Out, part of “America’s Night Out Against Crime,” first appeared in 1984 with an effort to promote “involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, neighborhood camaraderie and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back,” according to the National Association of Town Watch, the nonprofit which runs the event.
The association rolled out the annual event in 1984. That year, 2.5 million people took part in the event in 400 communities across 23 states.
National Night Out now involves more than 37 million people and 15,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide. The West Chester Police Department said this year it wanted to make sure the community is involved.