NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - On a hot and muggy summer night, city residents gathered in parks and housing developments across New Brunswick on Tuesday in a display of community spirit for the annual National Night Out.
Held in municipalities through out the state and across the nation, the festive events that have been held for decades are designed as a way to bring neighborhoods and police together.
"This is a terrific way for building police and community relations," said Mayor James Cahill during a stop at the gathering in War Memorial Park on French Street.
"It really is part of the everyday effort for better understanding between the police and the neighborhoods," Cahill said as he stopped for a moments in between hugs and greetings he received from residents at the park.
Several residents got a chance to take selfies photographs with the mayor. Council members John Egan and Rebecca Escobar were among the city officials making the rounds with Cahill at the events that were held in nine locations around New Brunswick.
New Brunswick holds events in different locations to reach individual neighborhoods, said Detective Harry Hudson, the police department's liaison to crime watch groups.
"New Brunswick is different that other communities. We going to reach more people by going to them," Hudson said.
Officers from several divisions in the police department visited the different locations, as did city firefighters and members of the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office.
Various sites offered food - including barbecue - water slides, blow-up bounce houses, and face-painting for children, and information booths providing details about health programs and other projects.
A couple of the events were the city's senior citizen apartment complexes.
Individual crime watch groups organize most of the events, Hudson said.