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Pleasant Hills keeps Night Out tradition

| Friday, July 26, 2013, 5:01 a.m.
Pleasant Hills police officer Matt Plunkett and his colleagues  will commemorate the borough's National Night Out by visiting neighborhood block parties, such as the one attended by Sarah and Mary Urso of South Park Township, Madeline Potts of Pleasant Hills and other youngsters on Mowry Drive last year.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Pleasant Hills police officer Matt Plunkett and his colleagues will commemorate the borough's National Night Out by visiting neighborhood block parties, such as the one attended by Sarah and Mary Urso of South Park Township, Madeline Potts of Pleasant Hills and other youngsters on Mowry Drive last year.

For 20 years, Pleasant Hills has marked a night out each summer with a 15-mile parade through borough streets and a slew of neighborhood block parties.

“This is probably the most extensive, longest parade in Allegheny County,” retiring Mayor Warren Bourgeois said. “And people love it. We travel two hours throughout the borough and people stand out in the driveway and they're happy.”

The borough has invited residents to continue the tradition by joining police and the Public Works Department, Pleasant Hills Volunteer Fire Co., Baldwin EMS and American Legion Post 712 on Tuesday from 7:30-9:30 p.m. to take a stand against crime, drugs and violence.

“Lock your doors, turn on the lights and come outside and meet with other people in your neighborhood,” police Chief Ed Cunningham said.

“If you as a resident decide to have a little party with your friends and neighbors, you call the police department and we will send an officer to your party,” Bourgeois said.

The phone number to register is 412-655-5045.

While half a dozen officers attend the parties, others on the 20-member force will take part in the procession or conduct traffic control.

“Our officers visit the block parties so you get that one-on-one relationship between the police and the community,” said Cunningham, a 37-year veteran of the Pleasant Hills force, its chief since 2007 and one of five borough officers slated to retire this year.

As per its tradition, the borough will have its event one week before the National Association of Town Watch's 30th annual National Night Out.

“We do that so the other municipalities can be able to take part in ours,” Cunningham said. “In turn, we can go to theirs.”

Cunningham said his officers have accepted invitations to take part in the parade at Elizabeth's Riverfest, run by volunteer firefighters.

Bourgeois said he has seen every one of his town's nights out as a councilman and in his four terms as mayor.

“You get to see parts of the borough that you don't normally see,” he said. “The biggest thing is the reaction of the people. You will see people waving American flags and so forth.”

The night out has grown over the past two decades.

“It was relatively small,” Cunningham recalled about the first event. “We had 36 units in the procession and there were 10 block parties. It has grown to about 150 units and almost 30 block parties.”

“Procession” may describe the parade best. It is not an event with marching bands, or any marchers at all.

“It's all police, fire and EMS and then military,” Cunningham said. “And occasionally we will get some specialized vehicles in there.”

Bourgeois said numerous events throughout the year link the police department with the community. Other examples are the annual Christmas party and outreaches to local schools.

“It shows there is someone behind the badge who actually cares about them,” Cunningham said. “It really is heartwarming.”

Next year, Bourgeois and Cunningham may be among those watching the procession. Council may name a new chief by year's end and former Councilman Robert S. Bootay III is unopposed on both major party ballots in the fall to succeed Bourgeois.

“I think I will take the same pleasure the next year and the year after that because of the legacy,” Bourgeois said.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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