Hundreds of residents had a chance to get a closer look at police cars, SWAT trucks and fire engines, while enjoying live music, children’s games and ice cream at the National Night Out in downtown Morgan Hill Tuesday.
Thousands of law enforcement and fire service agencies nationwide participated in the annual event, which is designed to allow citizens to meet their community police and firefighters on their own terms and learn more about public safety.
Morgan Hill Police Chief David Swing was pleased with attendance at the event, where police gave out 400 ice cream bars to residents.
Swing said the National Night Out and other events that familiarize residents with the police department are integral to public safety.
“Creating and maintaining a safe community is not just a police department’s role,” Swing said. “It’s everyone’s role to help keep everyone safe.
“(These events) help foster that community relationship because they bring the community and police department together in a fun social setting.”
Among the kids, the most popular stops at the National Night Out on Third Street, were the police motorcycles, fire trucks, and the SWAT team’s Bearcat armored vehicle.
Morgan Hill resident Omar A. Barajas brought his son Omar to National Night Out.
The 8-year-old enjoyed the Bearcat, which is shared by the cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy, as well as the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. The vehicle resembles a Humvee covered with steel plates and holes on the sides and the roof that can open and close, allowing SWAT officers to peek outside or engage weapons from inside the vehicle.
“It’s like the ones in the movies. It shoots from the side and the top,” said young Omar.
His father thought the National Night Out event was an “awesome” opportunity for residents to get an up-close look at how police and firefighters do their jobs.
“It gets the kids’ attention,” Barajas said.
Pamela and David Frederick attended the National Night Out “because he likes fire trucks,” said David, pointing to his 2-year-old son Ben, who was climbing into the passenger’s seat of a Calfire ladder truck with the help of his mother.
Mayor Steve Tate said he was “delighted” with the National Night Out, as well as the eager interaction between residents and public safety personnel.
“That’s what we need, is more community involvement. It shows the public understands, and wants to get involved.”
The annual National Night Out is designed to encourage drug and crime prevention awareness by bringing together public safety personnel and agencies with neighborhood residents, businesses and civic groups, according to the National Night Out website. Another purpose of the event is to “send a message to criminals, letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back,” according to the website. Last year, more than 15,000 communities nationwide celebrated the National Night Out.
Calfire and South Santa Clara County Fire battalion chief Jim Crawford said his department staff received positive feedback about the National Night Out in Morgan Hill, and attendees seemed to enjoy themselves.
“It’s an opportunity for the people in the neighborhood to be in direct contact - and not under emergency circumstances - with their emergency services providers,” Crawford said.