A Philadelphia Police Department helicopter circled the airspace of Snyder Plaza before landing in Target’s parking lot last Tuesday evening.
The spectacle was just one component comprising a variety of jubilation during the Philadelphia Police Department’s 3rd District and the Goldenberg Group’s rendition of National Night Out – an “annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie” across the United States.
Marking its third annual partnership, the Goldenberg Group, owner of Snyder Plaza, has been collaborating with the 3rd District for the last few years to host Philadelphia’s largest National Night Out event at Front and Swanson streets.
For the Goldenberg Group, which oversees a variety of tenants in the Whitman shopping center, including Acme, IKEA and Lowe’s, the concept behind National Night Out aligns with the major developer’s values.
“When National Night Out started developing as a way to connect community to police and other first responders, it seemed like such a natural fit for us,” said Seth Shapiro, COO of the Goldenberg Group. “So, we were thrilled to be able to provide the space and then provide a lot of support to make an event like this happen. We love getting to see our customers interacting with the first responders who keep them safe every day.”
Ideally, the colossal festival will break barriers between police and the community. Too often, Shapiro notes, young people, in particular, interact with law enforcement only in light of emergencies.
While 2019 marks the Goldenberg Group’s third annual event at Snyder Plaza, National Night Out, and ultimately its cornerstone concept, has been practiced by the 3rd District for decades.
“Today, the Philadelphia Police Department all around the city and the community are gathering together to celebrate National Night Out,” said community relations officer Juan “Ace” Delgado of the 3rd District. “A very important day for people to come out, turn on their lights, let them know that we care about our neighborhoods, we care about our communities and we work together to make things safer for everyone.”
Though the event offered local residents the opportunity to mix and mingle with officers in a relaxed setting, Delgado intends for these relationships to translate into the streets.
He says there are several ways South Philadelphians can help combat crime and foster community with police beyond National Night Out, including joining a registered community organization and participating in Town Watch groups.
“The community should know that they can count on the police not just for information,” Delgado said. “But to do things together, to work together, to make our streets safer. We need your help, because you’re our eyes and ears for us.”
The scope of law enforcement and city representation engaging with crowds included officials from the FBI, Philadelphia Highway Patrol, Major Incident Response Team (MIRT), Second Alarmers, Town Watch, the City of Philadelphia’s Human Relations Commission, Office of the Attorney General and the National Guard.
Drawing hundreds from across the city, the event featured dozens of vendors, activities, entertainment and resources.
Along with an array of Snyder Plaza tenants, including Best Buy, Acme, Dunkin’ Donuts and Modell’s Sporting Goods, numerous other citywide health, education and safety resources were on site to offer insight to attendees.
“It’s for the neighborhood,” said attendee Tariq Baker. “It’s for the kids to keep everybody out of trouble and brings the community together. I love it. It’s bringing us together. My daughter doesn’t want to go.”
The evening’s entertainment ran the gamut, encompassing parrot-accompanied clowns, Cambodian dance ensembles and even a singing mermaid.
When folks weren’t line dancing or munching on cannolis, they could be found hula hooping, engaging in reading circles, playing with Jenga blocks, getting their faces painted or taking photos with the helicopter.
“We came out because we do this every time they have it,” said attendee Susan Rossomando. “It’s a nice project to see what’s going on. It’s nice to see everybody do something in the neighborhood – anything to promote South Philadelphia. We get a lot of bad reviews, and it’s nice when we have something nice to promote it.”
Considering the tension society could perceive existing between law enforcement and the community on national and local scales, organizers and officials say National Night Out strives to reinforce the idea that everyone is a neighbor to one another.
And as host and home of Philadelphia’s largest National Night Out, South Philadelphia will continue to set the standard for the event every summer.
“I go to a lot of these throughout my district,” said councilperson Mark Squilla. “And this one here, by far, is the largest as far as participants and people coming out into the community…You always hear the negativity about what happens with police officers and people in the community, but I think by the police officers and the district really getting involved with community events shows that they care more about the community than just policing or enforcing laws. They want people to be safe. They want people to feel safe, but they also want people to look at them in a different light.”