Gig Harbor Police Chief Kelly Busey says it’s always good to have a goal, and that his department’s is a crime-free community.
To help reach that goal, the department hosts National Night Out as a way for the community to make a statement against crime, meet their local police and network with their neighbors.
“It started as National Night Out Against Crime,” Busey said. “Basically, it was a chance for communities, neighborhoods and block-watch organizations to come together and get to to their neighbors and make a statement against crime.It shows we won’t tolerate crime in our city.”
Nationally, thousands of communities will come together Tuesday (Aug. 7). Gig Harbor’s event will be from 5-9 p.m. at Skansie Park on Harborview Drive.
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Gig Harbor police have been hosting National Night Out events for 10 years, fitted with free hot dogs, root beer floats and Darth Vader.
“Washington has a professional Star Wars Characters group called the 501st Legion,” Community Service Officer Adam Blodgett said. “And they love coming to our event. Last year, they sent 12 characters and this year they are sending 15. Kids love seeing Darth Vader, storm troopers and other characters.”
In 2013, the department started emphasizing the program and soon became one of the top 10 National Night Out events in the country for cities Gig Harbor’s size.
Then it became too big.
“It became kind of a monster for us,” Busey said. “We were ranked top 10 for years in a row. But it became so much of an investment of staff time and money we couldn’t sustain it. We were a victim of our own success.”
Blodgett started organizing the event in 2015. After moving some pieces around and gaining more sponsors, he said, the event has returned to being a fun, productive investment for the department and community.
Sponsors include Home Depot, which gives away root beer floats and brings wood crafts for kids; the local Lions Club, which provides free hot dogs for visitors; the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and local corrections departments; the Kiwanis Club; Costco; Target, Fred Meyer and many other local supporters. McDonalds is bringing French fry trucks to the party.
The event will include free activities and vendors. Bobby Sox and the Jukebox will perform.
Blodgett said that because the event has so many supporters and volunteers, the police department has to spend only about $1,500 for the program each year. The money — used for decorations, tables and last-minute purchases — comes from the department’s nonprofit budget, which is separate from the city’s police budget.
Blodgett said he could not put the event together without the help of Kim Crowder, a department volunteer.
“I can’t quantify how many hours and how much she has given,” he said. “She is my right hand.”
Blodgett said having the event opens the lines of communication between the department and the community.
“They can just come up to us and ask us questions,” he said. “It really makes us more approachable.”
The department hosts such a big event so neighbors can come together and show unity, Busey said.
“We want neighbors to talk to neighbors,” he said. “We want our residents to say, ‘We expect our community stay crime-free and we are friendly.’ We are a solid community.”