JACKSON TWP.  Those shopping in the Target plaza on the evening of Aug. 1 should have felt safer than on any other day of the year. The parking lot was filled with local law enforcement and other safety forces for the 2017 National Night Out event.

The yearly event is designed to strengthen communities by encouraging neighborhoods to engage in stronger relationships with each other and their law enforcement partners. There was a mounted patrol unit, SWAT team and equipment, child fingerprinting, the Aultman WOW van and free food samples from local restaurants. Safety forces from Jackson Township, North Canton, Louisville, Stark County, Canal Fulton, Hills & Dales and other areas had vehicles and officers there to talk with participants.

Jackson Township Police Chief Mark Brink said the event is all about making connections in the community.

"This is a great way for law enforcement to interact with the community and for the kids and adults to see the equipment we use and to ask officers and firefighters questions," Brink said.  "It’s a great partnership between Target, the Stark County Sheriff’s office, Stark County Prosecutor, the Canton Co-op SWAT team and all of the safety forces in the area. We all get to explain to the community what we do and about the services we provide to serve and protect the residents of Stark County."

The mounted unit from the Stark County Sherriff’s office once again brought out two Tennessee Walkers geared up for visitors to see and pet. Reserve Dep. Carol Zimbello, Lt. Karla Nevel and guest rider Amy McKinney were talking with people about what the mounted unit does in the county.

"We use the horses to patrol different events such as the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Stark County Fair," Nevel said.

Canine units and their handlers from Stark Parks, Jackson Township and Canal Fulton Police Departments gave demonstrations on how the dogs help protect the communities.

Officer Tim Rice and K9 Ruger, Officer Josh Barabash and K9 Bishop and Sgt. John Crock and K9 Gunner demonstrated how the teams did searches for illegal substances and how the partners apprehend suspects.

Target employees were grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. Team Leader John Thomas and store Manager Chris Bengert were the chefs for the evening.

"We are working on 300 hamburgers and 600 hot dogs for the evening so everyone can have a free hot dog or burger and we also are handing out free bottled water tonight," Bengert said.

Other local restaurants were handing out free samples including Baja West Coast Kitchen, Quaker Steak & Lube, Papa Gyros, Mission Barbeque, Twisted Citrus, TD’s Tailgate, 3 Gringos and That Little Italian Kitchen.

There were plenty of local organizations on hand with community booths to provide information and offer games and prizes for visitors.

National Night Out is annual event also meant to heighten crime-prevention awareness, build support and participation in local anti-crime programs.