The Santa Ana community and Santa Ana Police Department celebrated National Night Out together on Aug. 1 in the spirit of fun, education and collaboration.
The event at Rosita Park in the city’s Riverview West neighborhood brought out hundreds of residents and several dozen officers for an enjoyable evening of demonstrations, music, food, games, bounce houses, and vendor booths.
Public agencies like the Santa Ana Library and OCTA were also on hand to answer questions, as were sponsors including Target, Angels baseball, and the Girl Scouts.
National Night Out takes place annually on the first Tuesday in August. The event’s intent is to act as an anti-crime community-building event between police and the communities they serve. National Night Out dates to 1984 and now has more than 15,000 communities nationwide participating, including police agencies in Orange County like Santa Ana.
For Santa Ana’s version, National Night Out included representatives from several units and participants, such as the mounted police, dispatchers and explorers. Even the armored rescue vehicle made an appearance, and was popular for children to climb inside and explore.
But the black vehicle couldn’t compete with the wondrous curiosity and fascination for Willow, a 13-year-old mare. This was according to Willow’s rider, Officer Jaime Lopez, a seven-year department veteran who learned to ride after he joined the police department. Lopez was wearing a special Santa Ana Police Department cowboy hat — a longtime tradition of the Mounted Unit, formed in 1990, that keeps some cowboy roots intact.
“Everybody walks up to us and talks to us,” Lopez said. “They forget we’re police officers and want to pet the horse.”
On the other side of the park, upcoming Segerstrom High School junior Natalia Islas helped at a booth that had youngsters like Victoria Ruvalcaba, 5, wearing a helmet and stepping up to check out a police motorcycle. Islas’ booth also featured various safety flyers.
Islas, 16, said she is interested in a future career in law enforcement. She wants to major in criminology and become an officer, though she isn’t sure which duty or specialty is of major interest. Getting involved in National Night Out is helping her gain necessary experience.
“It’s really fun because I see new people and I help the community,” Islas said. “The environment is great.”
Officer Manuel “Manny” Delgadillo of the Downtown Business Liaison Unit was on hand as well. He had fun distributing a few of his bona fide Santa Ana Police Department trading cards from his decades serving the department. There was the 26-year card, the 15-year card — but notably missing one of the editions.
“I’m only missing the rookie card,” he said with a smile.