PROSPECT PARK— Local residents came out by the dozens to Park Square Tuesday evening to meet their local law enforcers, watch and participate in safety demonstrations, pick up public safety information and socialize with others in the community, at Prospect Park Borough’s first-ever National Night Out event.

Hosted by the Prospect Park Police Department (PPPD), with support from Prospect Park Borough Council and Mayor Jeff Harris, the community-building event was intended to promote police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer and strengthen the community.

In addition to a plethora of tables manned by community groups, such as Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Delaware County Emergency Nurses Association, Saint James Academy, and the Domestic Abuse Project of Delaware County, the event featured displays of police, fire and emergency equipment, performances by Fireworks Dance Center, music supplied by DJ John Saddic and a miniature Red Cross emergency vehicle that self-propelled itself through the crowd.

“The community of people in Prospect Park have been welcoming and gracious to me,” said Police Chief David Madonna, who has only been in the borough's top cop position for less than two months. “I thought I met a lot of people already in this town, but tonight I am meeting tons more. That’s what this night is all about— focusing on public safety, of course, but also bringing the community together.”

Madonna, the former captain of investigations for the Upper Darby Police Department, initiated the event in the borough. He also reestablished the police department’s bike patrol, which has been out of service for the past eight years. The PPPD bikes were on display at the National Night Out.

“Chief Madonna is the best thing that ever happened to this town,” said resident Phyllis Floyd, while those around her shook their heads in agreement.

The Prospect Park Police Department, under Madonna’s leadership, has eight full time and six part time officers, most of whom were at the event to meet and talk with residents. The line never subsided near Officer Jay Hoover’s police cruiser, as he let one child at a time sit in the driver’s seat and try the siren and lights.

The office of District Attorney Kat Copeland and the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office had representatives on hand to share safety information. The Delaware County Heroin Task Force’s Mobile Drug Collection Unit collected expired and unwanted medications.

Additionally, many eyes were on Sensei Alex Quintella of Quintella's Martial Arts Academy in Folsom who worked alongside his students to demonstrate Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, self-defense, and more.

“I invited Alex (Quintella) here because he has helped countless children who were victims of bullying achieve pride, confidence and self-esteem,” Madonna said. “He has also helped countless adults reach their fitness and self defense goals. I’ve been training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with Alex for over a year now and the benefits are unbelievable.”

Mariann Jennings, director of the Prospect Park Library, was busy signing residents up for new library cards and sharing information about the free museum passes available at the library for residents.

“Tonight’s event is amazing for just being the first one our town has had —look at the unbelievable turn out,” Jennings exclaimed, as she glanced around. “This is a wonderful community event that gets everyone working together.”

Deb and Joe Daniels, organizers of the borough’s Town Watch program, were also at the event to recruit new volunteers and let residents know Town Watch is out there to keep an extra eye on the community. The Daniels and resident Cathie Coffin donated a huge Thin Blue Line police flag for the event, which was proving a popular backdrop for photo ops.

Italiana's Pizza generously handed out complimentary pizza slices, juice and water bottles, Prospect Park’s Fourth of July committee provided soft pretzels, 3Brothers scooped out water ice, and the PPPD gave out police temporary tattoos to the children, along with glow bracelets and police badge stickers.

Following the National Night Out event, the Prospect Park Recreation Department presented a free outdoor movie, “Toy Story,” on a big screen in Park Square. Families brought chairs and blankets to cap off the night with the family-friendly movie.

“We’re having a really great time tonight,” said Lori Williams of Glenolden, who came to the evening’s activities with her two sons. “There’s so much stuff for kids to do here and they were really amazed by the Safety House with its smoke and alarms. I hope they learned some safety tips from it.”

Robin and John Zebley, custom portrait artists who had a table at the event, also felt like the night was a huge success.

“We met so many new people here tonight,” Robin commented. “This was a really nice night for the community.”

State Senator Tim Kearney stopped by the event, after attending National Night Out festivities in Marple and Upper Darby, and before heading to Springfield’s event. He had a table with information and resources at each location.

“I wanted to stop by the Prospect Park National Night Out, because I know it’s their first one,” said Kearney. “There’s a strong sense of community and hometown pride in this borough and it was really evident tonight.”

National Night Out was founded in 1984 by Lower Merion resident and Town Watch volunteer, Matt Peskin. 35-years later, millions of residents take part in National Night Out across thousands of communities from all fifty states, U.S. territories and military bases worldwide on the first Tuesday in August. Neighborhoods host community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, exhibits and much more. The mission of National Night Out is to enhance the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement and strengthen the sense of community. In Delaware County, in addition to Prospect Park, National Night Out events took place in the boroughs of Lansdowne, Upland and Marcus Hook and the townships of Haverford, Marple, Springfield and Upper Darby.

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