4th annual After Dark in the Clarke

HOUSTON – The fourth annual After Dark in the Clarke is being held from 5-8 p.m. Monday at the corner of West Fuqua and Clarke. It’s a free event put on by members of the Houston Police Departmenb’s Southwest Patrol Division.

“Free food, free candy, snow cones, games -- it’s going to be a lot of good things,” Officer Sulei Johns said.

Free may have caught your eye and while that may be your motivation for coming out to the event, the officers are being driven by a more personal mission.

“It’s our mission to do things in the community to bring people out and increase our relationship with the community,” said Johns, who was assigned to the storefront post five years ago. “We think about every event, every holiday, what can we do special to bring HPD out and bring the people to us.”

That’s what led him and his fellow officers to come up with the annual Halloween event. Think of it as an alternative to the inherent risks of trick-or-treating.

“We keeping the kids out of the street late at night, out of traffic, bringing them into a safe environment,” Johns said.

Not only is it safer, not only does it offer up a ton of great freebies, it also gives this community the chance to chat with the officers.

“Most ... (people's) first interaction, only interaction with a police officer could be when they need it for help in a bad situation or they’ve done something bad so we’re trying to change that concept of police that we’re not just here for when you need us in a bad situation or when you did something bad. We (are) here all the time. All the time. Reach out to us, wave at us, come in and talk to us, give us a hug. We’re here. Lot of love,” Johns said.

Though they would love to see all of Houston come out to their event, these officers know the more traditional trick-or-treating will also be taking place Mponday night. They obviously encourage safe practices: Stay within arm’s reach of your children, be cautious of which houses you visit and try to limit your after-dark festivities.