Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 6:04 am | Fair 51º

 
 
 
 

Local News

First Responders Mingle With Families for National Night Out

Santa Maria event aims to build relationship between community and law enforcement officers

California Highway Patrol Officer Jordan Richards assists Gracie Castillo, 11, as she gets familiar with the patrol vehicle during Tuesday’s National Night Out in Santa Maria. Click to view larger
California Highway Patrol Officer Jordan Richards assists Gracie Castillo, 11, as she gets familiar with the patrol vehicle during Tuesday’s National Night Out in Santa Maria. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Kids climbed into fire trucks, sat in patrol vehicles and donned police garb on Tuesday, all with the permission of first responders and while parents took pictures as Santa Maria hosted National Night Out.

Hundreds of parents with children attended the event at Veterans Memorial Park, where various community groups and government agencies set up booths to offer assistance, information and free items in some cases.

Santa Maria police Officer Ricky Arias, one of the police beat coordinators and an event organizer, said National Night Out allows law enforcement officers and first responders to meet with community members while also building trust between the members of the public and officers.

Meeting police officers in a friendly setting helps build relationships so people are willing to make phone calls or send emails when problems arise, Arias said. 

“Unfortunately, so many times that we interact with people are in difficult circumstances,” Police Chief Phil Hansen said, adding that many of the encounters occur after traffic crashes or when someone is a crime victim.  

Events like National Night Out are more important amid reports of increased deportations for undocumented immigrants, Hansen said.

“We work very hard as a city and as our police department to send a message that we’re here to serve you if you live in this community,” Hansen said. “It doesn’t matter what language you speak, it doesn’t matter where you’re from. That is not our concern.

“Our concern is that you have a safe place to live, work and raise your children,” he said, adding that immigration is a federal government task. “We’re here to keep people safe.”

Organizers expected the event would attract more than 1,000 people, with that many hot dogs given away for free to attendees.

Officer Nate Totorica poses with a young boy sporting police SWAT gear during National Night Out on Tuesday in Santa Maria. Click to view larger
Officer Nate Totorica poses with a young boy sporting police SWAT gear during National Night Out on Tuesday in Santa Maria. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The Police Department, along with the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department, and People for Leisure and Youth, Inc. (PLAY), organized the two-hour event celebrating police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.

Other agencies represented included the Fire Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Allan Hancock College Police Department, the Guadalupe Police Department, the Santa Barbara County Probation Department and city park rangers.

Inside the nearby Veterans’ Memorial Community Center, free workshops offered by Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley included topics such as Nurturing Skills for Families, the Parent Project, Daring to Thrive, and more. 

A community fair offering youth and family resources also occurred in the auditorium, with child care provided by the Community Action Commission.

National Night Out started in 1984 as an effort to promote involvement in crime prevention activities while building partnerships with law enforcement and local communities.

Lompoc previously has hosted a National Night Out event but bypassed participating this year.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Santa Maria Fire Capt. John Acosta shows camera to visitors at National Night Out on Tuesday. Click to view larger
Santa Maria Fire Capt. John Acosta shows camera to visitors at National Night Out on Tuesday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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