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HAMMONTON - The Hammonton Police Department connected with the community Friday evening during its celebration of National Night Out.

Held on the grounds of Hammonton High School, National Night Out included kiddie rides, vendors, entertainment and live demonstrations. While the annual event is about fun, it also is about building relationships between the community and local law enforcement.

“It brings the community together,” said Police Lt. Kevin Friel about the importance of National Night Out. “We have gotten away from the time when everyone knew each other.”

Friel is aware that people usually do not see a police officer under the best of circumstances, making reaching out to the public all that more important.

To Kriel, building connections is essential because it helps foster understanding and cooperation between the community and law enforcement. It also helps to take away the fear and wariness that people may feel towards the police.

“They are a very important part of the police department,” said Kriel about the community.

One of the demonstrations during National Night Out was by K-9 units. During the demonstration, the dogs proved their abilities to trace smells, attack perpetrators and protect citizens and fellow officers alike in the face of potentially deadly situations. The dogs also demonstrated their bonds with their human partners.

“The bond, it’s a pure bond. A canine can’t tell a lie,” said K-9 Officer Jonathan O’Neil. The officer is the proud partner of 3-year-old Havoc. The two have been together since July 2016 and went through intensive training together.

“It’s one of the hardest jobs you can have, but one of the most rewarding,” O’Neil said.

The K-9 unit is an essential part of the police force, with the dogs helping to save lives. While the dogs do go into dangerous situations, they are not sent in unnecessarily and the dogs are required to wear body armor on patrol and in high-risk situations.

“We are always available; we want to bring as much light as possible to the K-9 unit,” said O’Neil.

K-9 dogs were not the only dogs at National Night Out. Annie, a 10-year-old Dalmatian, was out with her firefighter owner, James Badagliacco, who is a fireman with Hammonton’s Company No. 1.

“She likes coming out and loves seeing people,” said Badagliacco about Annie. It was clear that the feeling was mutual as dozens of children flocked to pet Annie.

In the spirit of building connections, the Hammonton Police Department invites people to like their Facebook page.

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