KPD narrows field for community relations board coordinator; National Night Out is Tuesday

KPD narrows field for community relations board coordinator; National Night Out is Tuesday

The Kinston Police Department has narrowed the field for its Community Relations Board coordinator to six candidates -- and the community will have a voice in selecting the new coordinator.

The field has been narrowed down to six candidates. The community will have two opportunities to meet and interact with the candidates at the Holloway Center Thursday, August from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.

So what does a community relations board coordinator do? It's a position within the police department that is in charge of working with the community.

"Their primary role is in enhancing the police department brand and working within the community; fostering great community relations," Kinston Police Chief Alonzo Jaynes said.

They will be responsible for planning all community events, like "Pizza with Police." They will also start and sponsor a youth advisory board, which hopes to turn kids away from some of the negative aspects of the community. The coordinator will also be responsible for all social media posts in order to keep the department as transparent as possible.

"We have very good relations with the public housing staff and housing board in the city. However, we want to enhance that relationship and create more events with them," Jaynes said. "We want to build on the neighborhood watch programs we have. There are only about five watch programs that we currently have. That is not enough for a city the size of Kinston.

"We want every neighborhood to have a watch as every neighborhood deserves to be safe."

Kinston City Manager Tony Sears flexes his muscles as a taunt to the dunk booth thrower during the 2017 National Night Out. Submitted photo.

One of the events the coordinator will be in charge of is the National Night Out.

In 1984, a group calling itself the National Association of Town Watches in the United States and Canada had had enough. Tired of drug use, crime and violence in their cities and towns, they encouraged citizens to turn on their porch lights, sit outside and socialize with their neighbors as a show of solidarity.

Since those humble beginnings, National Night Out has grown. What started as an effort to build up community watches has spread across all 50 states, takes place in more than 16,000 communities and has been attended by more than 38 million people.

Now in its 35th year, the Kinston Police Department, in conjunction with the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office, Emergency Services and the Kinston Fire and Rescue Department, welcome everyone to a National Night Out celebration on Tuesday at Pearson Park.

Last year, it was held at Historic Grainger Stadium, but with the Down East Wood Ducks in town that night, the event had to be moved.

“It’s always important any time you can get the community together and heighten their awareness about crime, teach them about crime prevention, and relate with them," Jaynes said. "It helps to get them to be the eyes and ears of the community. It is a rally that helps them to empower the community."

The celebration is going to take on a carnival atmosphere. There will be live music, a gospel act, a clown, a dunk tank and face-painting. There are also going to be opportunities for the community to meet and greet police officers while expressing some of their concerns.

“All of this is trust-building with our community, much like the ‘Pizza with Police' or ‘Coffee with a Cop.' We’re letting them know why we are doing all of the things that we do," Jaynes said. “This helps to give our story out and they can know us up close and personal."

Jaynes said he goes to events all the time and asks residents about bad encounters they have with police.

“Nobody can ever give a first-hand account, but they’ve always heard about it from someone else. Most people have a good experience with police and that needs to be told more," he said. "The more face time we give to the community, it enhances that trust and that bond between us all.”

As an example, Jaynes shared a story about a recent “Pizza with Police” event.

“There was a family that a lady brought her kids to see us," he said. "She said the kids were scared when she told us what she was doing. And at first, they were kind of shy.  But the kids all took photos with us and were happy and smiling with everybody. I count those as small victories for us.

"Every day that you can make someone happy because they had a positive interaction with you, that is a win.”

Besides Kinston, there are also National Night Out events in surrounding communities, including La Grange, Ayden, Winterville, Greenville, Goldsboro, New Bern and Vanceboro.

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