La Habra Police Department’s National Night Out – an annual event designed to strengthen partnerships between the police and the community – is best described as one big community party and everyone is invited.
Roughly 1,000 community members turned out to Portola Park on Aug. 2 as police personnel flipped burgers, crafted funny-looking balloon animals and painted faces.
There also was plenty of information on crime prevention strategies and participation from civic groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Children’s Museum of La Habra.
One La Habra detective emceed a watermelon eating contest with the enthusiasm of an amped up game-show host.
Kids got to meet the department police dogs, including LHPD drug-sniffing canines, patrol K9s and therapy dogs, hold SWAT weapons (unloaded of course), climb on police motorcycles and flick sirens on and off in squad cars.
Two-year old Noah wasn’t shy about posing for photos in front of a police car.
“He loves the police,” said Carmen Garcia, Noah’s aunt. “He has a fire truck and he has a little police car and he calls it a race car.”
An event that began in 1984 as a community-building and crime prevention initiative, National Night Out events now take place in more than 160,000 cities, according to the National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit network of police agencies, civic groups and neighborhood watch groups.
“It brings everyone together in a friendly environment with the police officers,” La Habra resident Marie Laveaga said.
Always held on the first Tuesday in August, the 2016 National Night Out holds special meaning in the wake of deadly attacks against police officers in Dallas, TX and Baton Rouge, LA.
“Ever since the events in Dallas and Louisiana, the community has been fantastic in their support of the police department,” La Habra Police Chief Jerry Price said. “We are much more effective when we are working with all of you to … keep La Habra a great place to live.”