Sirens blared through Towson on Tuesday evening, yet not a thing was wrong.
Accompianing the sirens and horns were signs and the call that "Crime is not welcome in Towson."
The procession of lights and sirens was part of Towson Area Citizens on Patrol's annual celebration of National Night Out.
The event was one of hundreds of "nights out" nationwide, and more than 40 in Baltimore County. But Towson's event is the only one that unites groups from around the area, not just a single neighborhood.
Residents gathered at the Towson Place shopping center, joined by representatives from Baltimore County police, the Baltimore County Sheriff's Office, Baltimore County Auxiliary Police, Towson University Police Department, Sen. Barbara Mikulski's office and Gov. Martin O'Malley's office, along with County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, police Chief James Johnson, state Del. Bill Frank and County Councilman David Marks.
The COP group's work "provides another set of eyes and ears for the police," Marks said. "These volunteers do tremendous work and they help keep such a tremendous and populated area safe."
The night out is the biggest annual event for Towson Area Citizens on Patrol, the 25-member umbrella group. Towson COP president Mike Calwell said that at any given time, two to six COP patrollers may be somewhere in Towson. Some neighborhoods are more active than others, he said, pointing specifically to groups in Wiltondale and Campus Hills.
The annual National Night Rally, Calwell said, is "kind of a goofy fun event" that allows the group a chance to be recognized in the community.
A caravan of 25 vehicles marked with COP signs, including two fire trucks (one carrying a banner saying "Crime is not welcome in Towson"), toured most of the Towson precinct in about an hour and a half on the road, including Stoneleigh, Rodgers Forge, Ridgeleigh, Hillendale, Knollwood-Donnybrook and West Towson.
As Calwell, a Rodgers Forge resident, drove the route, he said crime activity in Towson "does seem to be diminished" as of late, and surmised that that's why some COP groups have trouble attracting many active volunteers.
"People are going to be as active as they need to be," he said. "When things get crazy, then that's when people want to hop in their cars."
But the COP groups certainly have fans. Some residents watched from their doorways. Others stepped out and waved. Others came prepared, with kids in Wiltondale and Campus Hills waving signs and, in Ridgeleigh, a large crowd of residents gathered with balloons.
"This event is sort of a celebration of what we do all year," said Wesley Wood, director of the Precinct 6 Police-Community Relations Council. "It's a thank you for what we do. People really appreciate it."
For more photos, from blogger Rus Vanwestervelt.