‘Take back our streets’ – big event on Aug. 6
National Night Out designed to help community and law enforcement become better allies
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By Kaydon Coburn  July 26, 2013 12:00 am

Community involvement is key to effective public safety.

The opportunity to be involved, informed and aware of the public safety services available to Rohnert Park citizens happens at the revived National Night Out event on Aug. 6 at the City Center Plaza from 5-8 p.m, near the Rohnert Park Library.

 “We’re (public safety) united on our front,” says Terri Mazzanti, Rohnert Park National Night Out co-chair. “We’re trying to extend the hand to the neighborhood. What makes this a great city is the community. What makes us a great police department is our citizens being our ears and our eyes.”

National Night Out makes its claim as a “yearlong community building campaign, designed to heighten crime prevention awareness, generate support for and participation in, local anticrime programs, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.”

Lowest crime levels

“This past year, Rohnert Park experienced the lowest level of crime in the last 10 years, and it is due largely to citizens in our community who work with Public Safety,” says RP Director of Public Safety and Police Chief Brian Masterson. “Crime in many ways is dependent on what a community will or will not tolerate. We need concerned citizens to work with Public Safety to call us when they see criminal or suspicious activity in their neighborhood. We enjoy a high quality of life in Rohnert Park because our citizens take pride in our city and have no tolerance for individuals who break the law.”

The traditional National Night Out campaign is celebrated nationwide in cities and towns the first Tuesday of August with a variety of special citywide and neighborhood events such as block parties, cookouts, parades, festivals, visits from emergency personnel and law enforcement, safety fairs, rallies and marches, exhibits, safety demonstrations and seminars in effort to heighten awareness and enhance community relations.

This local event will offer fingerprinting kits for kids, bicycle rodeo (free helmet to the first 50 kids), Sonoma County search and rescue bloodhounds Daisy and Player, CPR instruction, law enforcement chaplaincy service, Sonoma County YMCA, Operation Life Saver (railroad crossing safety), a fire prevention demonstration, McGruff the Crime Dog, Rohnert Park K-9 Enzo and his handler Matt Snodgrass, Rohnert Park Public Safety Explorers Jump House, Rohnert Park Public Safety Traffic Motorcycle Unit, Rohnert Park Public Works, Rohnert Park Animal Shelter services, Rohnert Park Community Services, face painting and raffles. Sol Azteca, Mama Nita’s Filipino Hut, and Sally Tomatoes will provide food.

Local VIPs who have agreed to participate in a dunk tank include Mayor Pam Stafford, Vice-Mayor Joseph Callinan, Councilman Amy Ahanotu, Councilwoman Gina Belforte, Councilman Jake MacKenzie, Masterson, City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez, and Assistant City Manager Darrin Jenkins.

“Avenues will be presented on how to reach out to the police department.,” said Raquel Kilmartin, co-chair of the Rohnert Park National Night Out and City of Rohnert Park Public Safety Dept. Technical Services Assistant. Kilmartin has led the restoration of the event, which last happened in 2008.

Wanting to share info

“People want to share information. They want to be part of something. It’s going to be a fun, festive and educational event,” Kilmartin said.

“We’re not everywhere at once,” said Mazzanti, who is also the city’s Public Safety Department Technical Services Manager. “We usually go from call to call to call. To have people that aren’t afraid to call the police, are willing to be involved to stop crime within our community. They need to know us… trust us, and know what services we can provide. In order to do that, we want to invite them to spend some time with us.”

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for communities nationwide to promote police-community partnerships, crime prevention and neighborhood camaraderie. While the one night is certainly not an answer to crime, drugs and violence, National Night Out represents the kind of spirit, energy and determination to help make neighborhoods a safer place year-round. The night celebrates safety and crime prevention successes and works to expand and strengthen programs for the next 364 days,” said National Project Coordinator Matt Peskin.

National Night Out, “America’s Night Out Against Crime” was introduced in 1984 by nonprofit organization National Association of Town Watch (NATW) Executive Director, Peskin. It began an effort to “promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, and neighborhood camaraderie.”

First night out in 1984

The first National Night Out took place Aug. 7, 1984. That first year, 2.5 million Americans took part across 400 communities in 23 states. National Night Out now involves more than 37 million people and 15,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. Territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide according to the organization. The NATW is dedicated to the development and promotion of various crime prevention programs including neighborhood watch groups, law enforcement agencies, state and regional crime prevention associations, businesses, civic groups and individuals devoted to safer communities. The nation’s premiere crime prevention network works with law enforcement officials and civilian leaders to keep crime watch volunteers informed, interested, involved and motivated. Since 1981, NATW continues to serve thousands of members across the nation.

“Rohnert Park DPS (department of Public Safety) believes in building positive relationships with the community members of Rohnert Park,” says Public Safety Sgt. Eric Matzen. 

“These relationships allow us to collaborate with those who have a vested interest in the City in order to solve problems and address issues. NNO allows community members, DPS personnel, and other organizations the opportunity to come together, meet, and develop positive relationships.”

“I would encourage all citizens to come to our event and meet our elected officials and the officers who are committed to keeping Rohnert Park the safest City along the 101,” Masterson said.

“Show up, ask questions and participate,” Mazzanti added.

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