Law enforcement officials in Atlantic City, New Jersey, held a community-building cookout in partnership with local faith-based organizations on July 20.
During the event, police officers were on grill duty while volunteers helped hand out the food.
The cookout, which was the second this year, was organized by the Coalition for a Safe Community, a nonprofit formed in 2010 to combat violence and crime. The group is composed of several organizations from across the state that work together to hold community events.
In addition to free food and entertainment, the event provided access to a variety of services, such as health care, record expungement and housing help to members of the community who may be struggling.
Organizations such as AtlantiCare, Center for Family Services, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Southern Jersey Family Medical Center were present at the event.
“Law enforcement protects the kids and everybody else,” attendee Tockeem Washington said. “Everybody needs law enforcement. Without law enforcement, things would be lawless and that’s very bad.”
The family-friendly event also included a bouncy house, sweets and a live DJ for the kids.
Jewish Family Services provided assistance to those dealing with trauma.
“I think it’s actually beautiful for the kids and resources for the parents, especially single mothers,” Atlantic City resident Traneen Dunston said. “It would be nice if they could have a grief counselor out here because I know a lot of kids are dealing with the loss of their fathers or other family members.”
President of the Coalition for Safe Communities Perry Mays said he hopes the event changed negative attitudes toward law enforcement by showing officers in a more human light. “So many times, you see over the county, bad vibes in law enforcement and the community,” he said. “People get a chance to see police officers in real life, not arresting anybody, but talking to people, working together as one and making sure they get the proper assistance.”
Atlantic City police officers at the event said the cookout was a great way to restore community ties between law enforcement and the citizens they protect.
“Even because of COVID-19 it has put a little distance between us, but this is fantastic watching the kids play, and it’s something we need to do more,” Atlantic City Police Department Lieutenant Will Santiago said.
In addition to Atlantic City police officers, representatives of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and Sheriff’s Office were also in attendance.
Community cookouts will also be held in Pleasantville, Egg Harbor City, Galloway and Cape May in the future to help build safer communities.