Community members across Queens had a chance to meet their local police officers during National Night Out Against Crime on Aug. 3.
The community-building campaign, celebrated across the nation on the first Tuesday of August every year, aims to foster a positive relationship between the police and neighborhoods.
In Queens, the 110th Precinct, which encompasses Corona and Elmhurst, celebrated the annual event in Flushing Meadows Corona Park — where a few thousand community members showed their support for the women and men in blue.
George Onourah felt that this year’s National Night Out took on a new meaning given the rise in crime, saying public safety should be a priority.
“We need to build a relationship between the NYPD and the community,” Onourah said. “That way, we can have the peace and understanding we need to make this a better city — where each one of us feels safe when we walk the streets.”
Kids and parents enjoyed the carousel rides, face painting, slides, dance performances and musical entertainment by Camila Noguera, who also sang the national anthem. Long lines formed at the “game table” where police officers handed out age-appropriate games donated by Chief of Community Affairs Jeffrey Maddrey, and the hot dog stand attended by 110th Community Council members.
Commanding officer of the 110th Precinct Jonathan Cermeli, who was recently promoted to deputy inspector, said it was great to see so many members of the community at the event after it was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“We want to do events like this, to build the bridges between the community and the police department, but we need your support,” Cermeli said before handing out the City Council’s Good Samaritan award to some officers of the 110th Precinct.
In May, NYPD Officers Tyborowski and Isanovic responded to a call regarding an unconscious child who had a seizure. They saved the 2-year-old’s life, removing the foam from her mouth to prevent her from choking and performing CPR. Police Officer Laqua and his partner saved the life of a stabbing victim by applying a tourniquet and apprehending the suspect.
“A lot of people think it’s just locking up bad guys in handcuffs, but it’s a lot about life-saving actions,” Cermeli said. “It’s so important now more than ever that people realize what the police department is all about, and we’re about helping people. That’s our main concern.”
He encouraged everyone to say “hello” or “thank you” to a police officer and reiterated that “we’re here to help you, and we will always respond on your behalf, and we will always have your backs and protect you.”
Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz handed out a slew of New York State Assembly Certificates of Merit to community members, including Ceremeli, Detective Saponieri and members of the 110th Community Council.
She pointed out that the 110th Precinct played an integral part in handing out 200,000 bags of food during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and that the precinct organized a poker tournament to raise money for the community.
“As soon as the pandemic hit, [Deputy Inspector Cermeli] came to me and said, ‘How can I help you?’ And so those 200,000 bags of food that we gave out, we didn’t do it alone,” Cruz said.
President of the 110th Community Council Al Perna, which helped organize the event, acknowledged Cermeli’s promotion with a plaque from the council.
“This is a big promotion for the community. He’s always for us,” Perna said. “We’re always here for the community. Remember that, guys. You go by your precinct, you see a police officer, say ‘hello,’ say ‘thank you for your service, thanks for keeping us safe.'”
A few miles further away, the 109th Precinct — which encompasses Downtown Flushing, East Flushing, Queensboro Hill, College Point, Malba, Whitestone, Beechhurst and Bay Terrace — celebrated National Night Out with pony rides, cotton candy, slides and amusement rides.
Commanding officer Captain John L. O’Connell said that the 109th Precinct did a great job reaching out to the community all year around, and enjoyed the great turnout.
“It feels a little bit back to normal to see so many people here, and it’s refreshing,” O’Connell said, “The best part is that there are so many kids here. That’s the key to me: the youth turnout. That’s what you really want — to develop those relationships with the kids.”