by Jim Boyle
Elk River police and fire departments respond to hundreds of calls annually, but one of their favorite calls comes the first Tuesday in August every year.
That’s when they are dispatched to neighborhood block parties for a chance to connect with residents about what’s going on in that particular neighborhood and what residents should be on the lookout for.
Residents — after all — are their eyes and ears in the fight against crime. Some of what they do during Night to Unite is convince people to call when they see something suspicious — especially if after hours.
“There’s not one officer that would bat an eyelash at a suspicious activity call,” said Cheryll Edinger, a crime prevention specialist who heads up the coordination of Night to Unite in Elk River.
This was the 19th year that Elk River has been involved in Night to Unite or the similar program that they used to participate in, called National Night Out.
Sgt. Dan Block said he would rather respond to 100 suspicious activity calls that turn out to be nothing than one call that comes in after the fact when a crime has been committed or something else bad has happened.
This year there were 33 neighborhood parties plus several larger gatherings at the Elk River Activity Center, Guardian Angels, the Handke Family Center’s Nature Explore Center and Lions Park. Edinger estimates that at least 1,750 came out for this year’s festivities, and many businesses donated prizes to help add to the festive nature.
“It’s a good way to connect with residents,” she said.