National Night Out Has Peaceful Turnout on Saturday

Sandra Gerard-Leung, far right, serves burgers and hot dogs to the participants at the National Night Out in Buddhoe Park in Frederiksted on Saturday. (Photo by Shanell Petersen)

Youth, seniors, and every generation between gathered on Saturday evening for the ending of the territorywide celebration of National Night Out after a three-year hiatus hosted by Virgin Islands Police Community Partnerships, sponsored by the Law Enforcement Planning Commission, the V.I. Juvenile Justice State Advisory Board, and Crime Prevention Partners Territory-Wide.

Officer Henry Sweeney, in uniform, speaks with a participant while Community Service Officers, Rachel Stanley, coordinator, and Tijiera Matthew man the table for VIPD’s Grove Place Weed & Seed Program. (Photo Credit: Shanell Petersen)

“It’s a whole entire vibe,” echoed the JROTC students at their first National Night Out,  nodding their heads in agreement as other students joined in the conversation. Deshawn Williams, 10th grader in the JROTC, noted the opportunity to build friendships and create new bonds as key takeaways for this year’s event.

Central High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) students, from left, Cecilia Commabatch, ninth grader; Jhariyah Greenidge, ninth grader; Mariah Charles, ninth grader; and Deshawn Williams, 10th grader, converse at their first National Night Out (Photo by Shanell Petersen)

Celina Thompson led the “prayer/peace circle” in a riveting prayer that ended in great applause by the crowd holding hands surrounding the gazebo at Buddhoe Park in Frederiksted.

The crowd holds hands during the “Peace/Prayer circle” at Buddhoe Park, Frederiksted for National Night Out. (Photo by Shanell Petersen)

National Night Out is a nationally celebrated event that began in 1984 as a community-police awareness-raising event in the United States that is often held the first Tuesday of August, although several states and territories have created their own annual traditions.

Following the St. Thomas/St. John event earlier this month, the Virgin Islands Police Department Weed and Seed Community Oriented Policing Officer Christopher Edith shared how they plan to ramp up events over the next few months as they were able to host only six events this past year due to COVID restrictions, including the well-attended Bike Ride Out. They anticipate one event a month as a means to share information as they did on Saturday with the youth, such as “Tip for Teens” and other education pamphlets.

Adriel Thompson, 4 years old, comfortably pets a rabbit provided by Jungle James Cultural Tour and Petting Zoo at the National Night Out on Saturday evening. (Photo by Shanell Petersen)

Other participants handed out bags and other goodies for the children, while Jungle James Cultural Tour and Petting Zoo was a big hit with the younger children, who had the opportunity to pet rabbits, turtles, and a pony throughout the night.

Leah V. Reffell, 7 years old, pets a donkey as she shares a smile with the owner, Farmer James, of Jungle James Cultural Tour and Petting Zoo at the National Night Out. (Photo by Shanell Petersen)

The evening ended with lively music provided by DJ Toby D with a spirit of “patience, love, and community for ourselves,” stated Sandra Gerard-Leung, member of the Advisory Board.

For more information and upcoming events by VIPD’s Weed and Seed, visit the Virgin Islands Police Department Facebook page.