As Pine Bluff police and volunteers prepared to open the doors of the Convention Center for their third annual fall fest Thursday night, several hundred people waited to get in and enjoy games, hot dogs, candy and the safety of trick or treating with Pine Bluff’s finest.

As Pine Bluff police and volunteers prepared to open the doors of the Convention Center for their third annual fall fest Thursday night, several hundred people waited to get in and enjoy games, hot dogs, candy and the safety of trick or treating with Pine Bluff’s finest.

“This gets bigger every year,” said Lt. Shirley Warrior, who coordinates a number of events throughout the year aimed at children and young people. “The first year we had it at the old Lowe’s (on East Harding Avenue) and we’ve been here at the convention center the last two years.”

Click here for a photo gallery from the event.

Warrior said the department was preparing for 1,500 people, an increase of about 500 from a year ago.

The environment and the safety factor drew Porcia Moore and her son, Talib Jackson, to the event for the second time.

“We came for the first time last year and there is more safety here than going door to door trick or treating,” Moore said. “There are plenty of activities and as a parent I appreciate that.”

Sgt. Marcus Smith, who is assigned to the Bicycle Patrol, was at a table passing out gifts for boys and girls, and described the crowd as “the largest crowd we’ve had.”

Like all of the officers who were working the event, Smith said the department fall fest gave people, particularly younger people, a chance to see police in a different light.

“Sometimes they see us only as someone who comes and takes their momma or daddy to jail but through things like this, they can see us giving out candy, playing games with them, and being their friends,” Smith said. “This is also a chance for us to give back to the community.”

Charlotte Avery brought her children, Danila Haynes, 5, and Daniel Moore, 11, to the convention center.

“This beats going out in the neighborhood,” Avery said.

Avery said this was the first time she had come to the event, and “felt safer than going door to door.”

“They’ve got lots of candy and games and other things,” she said.

Playing a prominent role in the activities was Assistant Chief of Police Ivan Whitfield, in full costume and escorting his five-year-old granddaughter, Alyssa, around.

“This is a beautiful thing,” Whitfield said. “Everybody’s happy, and safe, and they’re not going around knocking on doors or getting into trouble.

“This is a huge task every year but it’s worth it,” he said.