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Focus is on community policing, recruitment at National Night Out

RICHMOND, Va., -- Police departments and first responders attempted to connect to communities during National Night Out events scheduled throughout Central Virginia on Tuesday night.

As families ate hot dogs and hamburgers in a event hall at Richmond Raceway, Henrico Police Chief Humberto Cardounel would sit down and chat.

Cardounel explained that this was an easy way for him to connect one-on-one and build a connection with the residents of Henrico County.

"We remind ourselves that this type of fellowship and this type of community partnership is what should be occurring 365 days a year," Cardounel said. "I tell my officers never pass an opportunity to make a good impression."

National Night Out was designed to forge strong relationships between neighborhoods and police. The annual event also helps police officers and citizens work together to heighten awareness of crime and drug prevention.

Cardounel said that an officer or member of his department will attempt to visit each of the more than 90 National Night Out events scheduled.

Governor Ralph Northam also showed up to the Richmond Raceway to meet with Virginians. Northam suggested that children who meet a law enforcement officer or first responder may want to work in that field in the future.

"The police and the firefighters are our neighbors and they are out there to help us. I think it’s good for the kids to be out here with them and they’re regular people," Northam stated.

About 800 people were expected to attend the National Night Out event scheduled at 2600 Nine Mile Road in Richmond's East End.

One mother, who was a federal officer at the DC-area VA Hospital before changing careers, hoped her young daughter learned a lesson there.

"I used to be a police officer and my young girls don’t remember that. I get to come out and mingle so they get to know the police officers and say, 'Oh, Mommy used to do that,'" she explained.

National Night Out brings police and neighbors together in support of crime prevention during an evening full of fun for all ages, according to a Richmond Police press release.

"A strong partnership between the citizens and law enforcement is a powerful tool in fighting crime which begins with building a sense of community," the release read.

“National Night Out is an evening that showcases our relationship with the city of Richmond through over 100 community events!” said Captain Daniel Minton with the Community, Youth and Intervention Services Unit. “This bond is what leads to crime reductions and makes our mission statement a reality: We make Richmond a safer city through community policing and engagement”

Bensley Park hosted one of the more than 100 National Night Out events in Chesterfield.

From a podium Chesterfield Police Chief Col. Jeffrey Katz urged residents to lock their car doors at night among asking for help solving crimes.

"We all want a safe community and we rely on members of the public to give us information about suspicious activity and criminal information. They rely on us in their moments of need," Katz said.

Katz also called out the need to hire individuals willing to join his force and become officers. But, his main message was community policing is what his department strives for.

"It’s important that our residents know we are members of the community first. We are all in this together," he said.