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National Night Out

By Aidan Johnson

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and the Town of Brookhaven once again held their National Night Out event at the Fireman’s Memorial Park in Ridge.

National Night Out, an annual tradition that takes place on the first Tuesday in August, is a nationwide event that police officers participate in to raise awareness about police programs in their communities.

The Brookhaven National Night Out, the largest of its kind on the East End, opened by playing the national anthem. As hundreds of families arrived, multiple activities were being held, including tug of war, bingo and an ice cream truck that gave away free vanilla and chocolate swirls.

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr., above. Photo by Aidan Johnson

“People always know what the police department does, but sometimes people don’t know what the Sheriff’s Office does, so we have our trucks here,” said Sgt. Paul Spinella of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. “We have our deputies here showing all the different aspects that the Sheriff’s Office is involved in, and hopefully meeting some community members.”

Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. was also on hand during the event. He spoke of the progress that his office has made in bolstering community turnout and educating the public about services offered through his office.

“The way that our National Night Out has grown from almost 250 people at the first one four years ago to now expecting over 3000 people today shows that not only are we having a positive impact on our community, but our community wants to learn more about us,” Toulon said.

The sheriff also highlighted the steps that he and his office have undertaken to build trust with the broader public.

“I think there’s pretty much a symbiotic relationship between the community and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office,” he said, adding, “I think that members of the community in Suffolk County are extremely supportive of the law enforcement community, which we are very appreciative of. We want to keep our communities safe so that each and every person can live and do the things that they freely want to do.”

One of Toulon’s goals is to establish a closer relationship between children and the police. According to him, law enforcement can offer the necessary guidance to keep children away from bad influences and motivate them to contribute to their community. 

“Our goal is to really make sure that we can keep young kids on the straight and narrow path so that we can show them the positive thing to do,” he said. “Since I’ve become the sheriff, I’ve been in one to two schools per week talking to students about bullying, vaping, opioids and drugs.”

Toulon added that one of his achievements as sheriff has been bringing programs from the Sandy Hook Promise organization to all Suffolk County schools. The organization, which was started by Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley, who lost their children in the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, aims to empower kids and adults to prevent violence in schools and their communities.

“We have taught over 30,000 faculty, teachers and students with the programs — the Start with Hello and the Say Something programs,” Toulon said. “We also engage with our middle school students with the gang resistance education and training program. We try to deter kids from engaging in any type of gang activity. We really try to really make sure that our kids are making good choices.”

While many deputies were present during the night, becoming one is no easy task. One deputy shared some of the requirements, including tests, physicals and orientations.

“It’s actually a very long process to become a deputy,” she said. “Honestly, I think it takes about a year.”

Among all of the booths set up was one for the organization New Hour, a nonprofit founded to support women who are either currently or formerly incarcerated and their families. 

“We try to provide donations that include clothing, shoes, cosmetics, toiletries and any donation that we think a woman could benefit from once they’re released or once they have finished their term,” Anitria Blue, the community ambassador liaison for New Hour, said. 

One of New Hour’s major programs is referred to as Empowering Methods for Effective Reentry, Growth and Engagement, or EMERGE. It is a 15-week program that allows women to meet and learn about resources that may help them. The program helps these women become more involved with the criminal and social justice systems and helps them learn to advocate for others. 

While Blue felt slightly intimidated by the turnout of her former corrections officers during the event, she enjoyed the event nonetheless. 

Sgt. Paul Spinella of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. Photo by Aidan Johnson

“I had good relationships with my officers during my 17 years of incarceration,” she said. “It took a while, but they got to know me, so when I see them, I actually see humanity.”

Toulon felt a strong sense of appreciation for everyone who worked for him. “When I look at the [people] who work for me, whether they are deputy sheriffs, correctional officers or civilians, I think that they are heroes because not too many people can do what they do,” the sheriff said. 

As the night went on, a feeling of community connectedness grew among everyone in attendance. “I think we want [people] to know that we’re just like them,” Spinella said. “We’re community members, too. We help the community, just like garbage men and post office [workers]. When they come up to us and ask us for help, we are there for them.”

Legislators, police officers, local business representatives and residents enjoyed some playtime Aug. 6 on a perfect summer’s night.

Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), the Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct and the Middle Country Public Library hosted the annual National Night Out at the Town of Brookhaven’s Centereach Pool Complex. The free event promotes police-community relationships and neighborhood camaraderie.

This year more than 1,000 residents came out to swim in the pool, play games and interact with first responders and military personnel as well as community vendors.

On Aug. 7, Suffolk County Police Department officers, as well as members of the military and local fire departments, took time out to spend an evening with residents in the communities they serve.

National Night Out events took place in various locations in Suffolk County including Centereach Pool Complex in Brookhaven, hosted by the 6th Precinct, and in the Commack Target parking lot, organized by the 4th Precinct. The free events included a chance to meet and chat with law enforcement officers, rescue workers and representatives from the different branches of the military. During the evening, attendees could play games, learn how to perform CPR, sit in an impaired driver simulator device, rock climb and more. The Flashing Fingers Signing Club also performed in Centereach.

“The night is about being able to humanize the people behind the uniform,” said William Zieman, 6th Precinct community liaison officer at the Centereach event. “It’s also about connecting residents with all the positive resources in the community and at the same time having the opportunity to interact with law enforcement in a positive way.”

The Squillance family of Medford attended the event to show support for the 6th Precinct, including officers that came to their rescue recently.

“This Suffolk police are a great group of people,” Steve Squillance said. “They were there when my son had a seizure in our pool at home, and Officer [William] Zieman and Officer [Casey] Berry even came to our house to teach my kids about pool safety.”

Additional reporting by Anthony Petriello

The annual Run the Farm 4-mile challenge. File photo

The summer activities series in the Town of Brookhaven’s 3rd Council District have been announced.

The events, presented by Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) and the town’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Sports and Cultural Resources, start with a pickleball tournament in June and end with the fourth annual Run the Farm 4-mile challenge in August.

“Spring is here and summer is just around the corner,” LaValle said. “After the winter we had, I am pleased to join with the parks department to present these great outdoor family events and urge everyone to participate.”

Centereach Pool is located at 286 Hawkins Road in Centereach. Image from Google Maps

Upcoming summer activities:

Pickleball tournaments: A spring tournament will be held Saturday and Sunday, June 2 and 3, and a fall tournament is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Centereach Pool Complex pickleball courts, located at 286 Hawkins Road in Centereach.

• Participants must bring their own paddle and water

• Balls provided

• Must preregister to participate 

• For more information or to register, call 631-451-6133

Hoops for military heroes: Saturday, July 21 — rain date scheduled for Saturday, July 28 — at the Centereach Pool Complex located at 286 Hawkins Road in Centereach.

• Free event (T-shirts, snacks, prizes)

• $15 suggested donation per team

• All funds raised will be donated to local veterans organizations

• Preregistration is required at www.BrookhavenNY.gov/Basketball 

• Age brackets for boys and girls are as follows: 12- and 13-year-olds sign in at 9 a.m. with a 10 a.m. start time for games; 14- and 15-year-olds sign in at 11 a.m. with a noon start time; and 16- and 17-year-olds sign in at 1 p.m. with a 1:30 p.m. start time.

The annual Run the Farm 4-mile challenge benefits Ann Pelegrino’s Bethel Hobbs Community Farm. File photo

National Night Out: Tuesday, Aug. 7, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Centereach Pool Complex located at 286 Hawkins Road in Centereach.

Co-sponsored with the Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct, the free, annual event promotes police and community partnerships to make local neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. It’s an
evening of summer fun activities and free outdoor swimming for the entire family.

Run the Farm 4-mile challenge: The fourth annual event of this local race will be held Saturday, Aug. 18, at Bethel Hobbs Community Farm, located at 178 Oxhead Road in Centereach.

Athletes can lace up their sneakers and traverse a 4-mile course on roughly 2 miles of flat terrain followed by 1 mile of rolling hills and two mildly challenging ascents before concluding at the historic
grounds of Bethel Hobbs Community Farm. The event benefits the farm, a nonprofit that has the mission of being devoted to servicing local food pantries and food programs.

• USA Track and Field sanctioned event

• Start time is 9 a.m.

• For more information or to register, call 631-451-6647 or email [email protected]

• Or, visit the town’s website at www.brookhavenny.gov/runthefarm or www.start2finish.com

Police officer Tim Beck with a humvee during SCPD's National Night Out community outreach event. Photo by Ted Ryan

By Ted Ryan

Huntington Town joined communities across the nation on Tuesday, Aug. 2, to celebrate the 34th annual National Night Out, an event that promotes police-community partnerships to help make neighborhoods a safer place to live.

“We have forged relationships among law enforcement, government and the community that keeps lines of communication open so when problems arise, we can work together on solutions.”

—Dolores Thompson

This is Huntington’s 14th consecutive year celebrating the event, starting in 2002.

Residents flocked to Manor Field Park in Huntington Station, where the Suffolk County Police Department, the Huntington Station Business Improvement District and corporate sponsors Target and 7-Eleven got together to show a sense of unity for the community.

This event is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness and to generate support for participation in local anti-crime efforts.

Vice President of Huntington Station BID Dolores Thompson spoke on why this event is meaningful for the community.

“We have forged relationships among law enforcement, government and the community that keeps lines of communication open so when problems arise, we can work together on solutions,” she said at the event.

Suffolk County police ran a crime scene investigation clinic and had a demonstration of police dogs in action, demonstrated the department’s GPS tracker, let residents try a distracted driving simulator and explore a Humvee.

Police Explorer Tim Beck described what the National Night Out meant to him.

“[It’s] a nationwide law enforcement day which connects the community to the police department to teach both the police department and the community about everything that’s going on, inform the community on what the police are up to … and to let the community tell the police what they feel should be done,” Beck said.

There were multiple nonprofit groups at the event, each distributing brochures and information on how they are helping create a more comfortable community, including Long Island Cares, Huntington Public Library, Fidelis Care, Northwell Health and others.

Carolyn Macata was at the Northwell Health stand and said the medical group was trying to bring fun activities to kids that also helped them learn how to stay healthy.

“One of the things we’re focusing on today is healthy nutrition for the kids, plus we work with controlling asthma, so we have asthma-related coloring books specially geared toward young children, as to help identify their triggers, learn their medications and work with their doctors,” she said.

Huntington residents explore the many booths and stations set up for this year’s National Night Out event on Aug. 2. Photo by Ted Ryan
Huntington residents explore the many booths and stations set up for this year’s National Night Out event on Aug. 2. Photo by Ted Ryan

In light of the recent police shootings in Austin and Dallas this year — among other shootings throughout the country — Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) spoke on how this year’s National Night Out is an opportunity to heal the connection between police and civilians.

“This year — especially at a time when the relationship between police and the community is strained in some places elsewhere in the country — it is gratifying to know that here in Huntington, everybody is working together toward the common goals of reduced crime, increased security and better quality of life,” he said.

Last year, 38.5 million people from 15,728 communities in states, U.S. territories and military bases worldwide participated in this event.

Deputy Inspector Matthew McCormack spoke on what his takeaway was of National Night Out.

“It’s a get-together where you can come out and meet everybody and celebrate a night out against violence,” he said. “[National Night Out] puts a face on the police department, and a face on the community.”