VINELAND . N.J. (WTXF) - While it may have looked like just another day in South Jersey, it didn't happen by chance. Operation Safe Streets in Vineland, New Jersey brought the community together as part of a plan to unite everyone and keep the streets safe.
In Vineland and several other communities, Sgt. Danny Latorre of the Vineland Police say they are working hard to build relationships
"We really want to continue to engage with our community. To really interact with our youth, provide a safe haven for them to come out and participate in activities instead of being bored not doing anything at home and possibly getting into trouble," Sgt. Latorre explained.
Often when we talk about young people we hear about all of the problems that they have, the lack of resources or the trouble that they get into. But, what you don't hear about young people is when they're doing positive things and just enjoying being kids. Something Russell Swanson of Main Street Vineland things is extremely important.
"This is Play Streets, it's a national program that's developed to bring kids outside. Get them off their phone, get them away from TV come out and play enjoy the outdoors," Swanson explained.
Closed streets, music and more. On this day it all took place in Vineland, but the goal is to continue to present these opportunities regularly in inner-city neighborhoods that traditionally lack them. Parents like Michael Munnerlyn were grateful for the opportunity for his daughter
"We don't have that many opportunities to do things like this out here. I think it's a good thing to be doing this for the kids," Munnerylyn said.
On the surface it's just a day of fun but it goes much deeper than that. First, the police and other officials are there. Sgt. Latorre says that's a good way to open up communication.
"We don't just only focus on families we want the kids to come out but we encourage the families to come with them and participate in the activities," Sgt. Latorre explained.
The interaction helps establish police and community relationships and that's important. Second and equally important is the acknowledgment that we can do more to provide opportunities for all kids. And Michael Munnerlyn says that can save lives.
"Keep them out of violence, out of gangs, off the streets… just need a chance," Munnerlyn added.
The Play Streets days have also helped to break down the negative stereotypes that exist in too many neighborhoods by showing that young people really do look for safe things to do and when they exist they jump at them.
So it struck me that a community came together to do positive things for young people and it struck me that there was a positive relationship between the police and the community. But what also struck me is that what happened here isn't anything that we can't do every day in our communities if we just decide we want to.