From the K9 unit to the Mounted Unit, from SWAT to Dispatch, from Motor to Patrol, the Santa Ana Police Department had every facet of the organization on display for the annual National Night Out on Aug. 3 at Windsor Park.
Always held on the first Tuesday in August, National Night Out events are organized by law enforcement agencies around the country as a way to strengthen the relationship between the police and the community.
National Night Out is popular with families and especially with children, many of whom have never had the chance to pet a K9, try on SWAT gear, or climb on to a police motorcycle.
“It’s the first time I’ve come to this event,” said Loni Euenrostro, who lives in the neighborhood and brought along her three children. “The kids are having a good time. It’s good that they don’t have to wait for an emergency to see a cop. There are a lot of families in this neighborhood and a lot of kids too and we don’t get to interact too much. We get to actually come together (at National Night Out).”
After the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of National Night Out in 2020, the Santa Ana Police Department was grateful to have the chance to re-engage with community, said Cpl. Sonia Rojo, who just took over as the department’s public information officer.
“For us, this is always a great event,” Rojo said. “We have events throughout the whole year. We try to always provide the community with a setting where we can engage with them and talk to them in this kind of manner. It’s nice for the community and for the officers. It gives them more of an at-ease feeling when they do encounter us.”
Ubelster Penaloza, who grew up in Santa Ana, came with his wife and two children. The family was attending National Night Out for the first time.
“It absolutely offers the community an opportunity to get to know the officers who are responsible for protecting and serving them,” Penaloza said. “Our kids are very excited about it. I wish I had this when I was a child.”
Santa Ana Police Department dispatchers were also on hand, educating the community on all aspects of the 911 emergency line, including when you should and shouldn’t call 911.
“We want to educate the community about 911,” said Communications Manager Karen Leyde, who oversees the department’s 31 dispatchers.
Having the public see dispatchers face to face and not just as voice over a phone line is important, Leyde said. That’s why she includes dispatchers in community events such as National Night Out.
Santa Ana Police Department dispatchers field about 1,100 calls a day of emergency and non-emergency calls, Leyde said.
National Night Out began in August 1984 to promote camaraderie among law enforcement and community members in cities across the country. The first annual National Night Out was held in 400 cities in 23 states. Today, the event is held in 16,000 cities in 50 states.
For more information about National Night Out, click here.