Both Rohnert Park and Cotati will be celebrating National Night Out August 7 this year, a free awareness-raising event bringing together the police department and the community. It is held all across the United States, always on the first Tuesday of August. The evening is set aside to build community and build relationships between police departments and the neighborhoods they serve, increasing safety and developing a sense of community.
“It’s a national event,” says Jennifer Davis, Public Safety Records Clerk and Lead National Night Out Coordinator for the Rohnert Park Public Safety Department. “Different law enforcement agencies do their own national night out but we all, as a nation, celebrate that one evening for crime prevention awareness, getting connected with the community and letting them know what their local police and fire have to offer.”
While both cities have been participating in the event for several years, there are some new experiences in store at both locations this year.
Rohnert Park, who holds National Night Out at the City Center Plaza, will feature a lot of activities for children such as a bounce house, children’s fingerprinting and games and prizes. A new feature this year will be police officers barbequing hot dogs for the community and demos of the new bike patrols the Department of Public Safety just built in July to help patrol creek paths and other areas that are difficult for patrol cars to access. Rohnert Park’s fire truck will also be on display.
“We hope to educate the public with information booths for things like the SMART train, CHP, the ambulance, Sonoma Life Support and others so that kids can interact with these resources that they have in their community that help children and adults,” says Davis.
The event will also host booths and equipment from public works and various city services. Animal Services will talk about pet safety and officers will demo search and rescue dogs.
“What I like best about the event is to see everyone having a good night together,” says Davis. “It’s a hometown feeling where you can talk to the different people that are running the city. There are people from the city council and everyone has a great time and feels that pride of ‘this is our city.’ This is what we’ve worked so hard to present to the public, to keep the community safe and to bring us all together and have a great night out.”
Cotati’s third National Night Out will be held at La Plaza Park and will again feature a movie in the park (Sherlock Gnomes), bounce houses and slide and barbequed hamburgers and veggie burgers provided by the Cotati Police Department, starting at 7 p.m. Officer Deaton will be providing demonstrations of their K9, Remo, and there will be many activities for children.
“We want families to gather, come out to the park, and meet each other,” says Cotati’s Chief of Police Michael Parish. “The whole premise for National Night Out is to get neighbors together and engage in conversations with each other and with the police department. We’ve also invited Rancho Adobe Fire District to come. They’re going to bring a fire truck.”
New this year will be the presence of the Sonoma State University Police Department. The Cotati Police Department recently joined into a partnership with the SSU Police Department and have consolidated their dispatch system.
“What I like about Cotati is that it’s a small city,” says Parish. “We have that wonderful La Plaza Park which is right in the hub of town. I like getting all of our residents downtown to talk to each other and talk to the police. We have barbeque, there is no agenda, there aren’t any speeches - it’s just a chance to come and have a good time. It’s really geared for our children so we encourage people to bring their children and grandchildren and come and have fun.”