HANFORD — Triple-digit heat didn’t stop hundreds of community members from heading to Civic Center Park Tuesday and getting to know their local law enforcement officers during National Night Out.
National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police and community partnerships and neighborhood togetherness. Many cities across the country take part in National Night Out on the first Tuesday in August.
Some neighborhoods host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and various other community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, exhibits and more.
Hanford Police Officer Jarred Cotta was in charge of this year’s National Night Out. He said about 25 different community resource organizations set up booths and were out to provide residents with information or to just talk to them.
Along with the police department, other organizations included the Hanford area California Highway Patrol, Kings County Probation Department, Kings Community Action Organization, representatives from Senator Andy Vidak’s office and various other community resource groups.
Free hot dogs, water and Superior Dairy ice cream were provided. Cotta said the turnout was great this year with at least 600 people making the trip to the park. He said over 800 hotdogs and 1,000 water bottles were handed-out.
There was no shortage of fun activities for the kids, including games, bounce houses, free rides on the carousel and tours of law enforcement vehicles, like the popular S.W.A.T. van.
Kids who rode on the carousel were even entered into a backpack raffle. Cotta said this was the second year they’ve done a raffle, and over 80 lucky kids left National Night Out with new backpacks for school.
Grecia Garcia said she has attended National Night Out for many years because her husband works for WestCare, which includes an adolescence counseling group, and has always supported the event.
Garcia, who brought her three children, said the event is important because it brings resources to the community and gives them options for helpful programs they may not have known about.
“It’s good for people to come so that way they get to know what’s out there,” Garcia said. “It’s summer, they come out and it gives them something to do and learn too.”
Fabian Barajas and his daughter, Camila, 6, attended the event by coincidence. He said they just happened to drive by and saw all the people and activities going on.
Barajas said he thought the event was nice, and liked all the different booths he and Camila went around to. He said the event had a great message of bringing the community closer together. He said they would definitely attend again next year.
Camila agreed with her dad and said she’d love to attend the event again. She said she enjoyed the bounce houses the most, and called National Night Out “beautiful.”
CHP Officer Vince Roeber said it was his first time attending a National Night Out in Hanford, though he had been to many of the events when he worked in the Mariposa area.
Roeber was handing out pamphlets on bicycle, skateboard and pedestrian safety to the kids and answering any questions they had about the CHP. He also talked to the adults about proper car seat installation.
One of activities Roeber did with the older kids was to have them use vision-impairing goggles. He would take them through a few simple field sobriety tests to how them the dangers of driving under the influence.
Though there have been many displays around the nation of the public and law enforcement not getting along, Roeber said the reality is that most residents support law enforcement, and events like National Night Out are great ways for officers to meet the community in a neutral and fun setting.
Roeber said it’s important for kids today to know that law enforcement officers are safe people who they can turn to in a time of need.
“How many times do you see a large law enforcement presence and a whole bunch of people having a good time,” Roeber asked. “It doesn’t always work out that way, so it’s important for community bonds.”
A blood drive was also held during the event. Each blood donor left with a coupon for a free pint of Baskin-Robbins ice cream and a chance to win a free birthday party at the carousel, donated by the Hanford Chamber of Commerce.
Cotta said there were more resource booths and volunteers this year than there were last year, resulting in more people attending the event. He wanted to thank all the volunteers and the community for supporting National Night Out.
“It’s just a great event overall,” Cotta said. “We’re bringing the community together to learn about the police department and grow together as a community.”