Hundreds of creatively costumed children collected treats at the Santa Ana Police Department’s Trunk-or-Treat event, while, at the same time, their families learned about key community resources.
Featuring informational and entertaining displays from community organizations, local businesses, and various police divisions, this year’s event on October 20 included giveaways, photo opportunities with both superheroes and police officers, and lots of sugary treats. This was also the first Trunk-or-Treat event held at police headquarters.
The annual event previously took place at other Santa Ana locations, explained Social Media Coordinator Yessenia Aspeitia, who advertised the celebration via the city’s Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets. Aspeitia said she expected about 200 families to attend, yet it was apparent less than halfway through the evening that many more residents participated. Vehicles filled the adjacent parking structure and many other families arrived on foot for the two-hour Thursday evening celebration.
“We’re happy to gather all our partners serving the community, such as the water department, library, various community foundations, and businesses like Chick-fil-A in one place, and to provide a safe place for children to gather,” Aspeitia said.
Captain America, Spiderman, and Daredevil were among the superheroes who posed for pictures with children and families, alongside officers from the motor, forensics, K9 and other divisions. Halloween-themed music from “Beetlejuice” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” blared from loudspeakers. Kids in all manner of handmade and store-bought costumes wove their way through the myriad activities and displays, each of which offered candy, ceramic holiday mugs, coloring books, and many other treats. Various monsters meandered through the crowd, scaring unsuspecting grandparents and posing for portraits with family members.
Santa Ana residents John and Cecilia Perez learned about the holiday event on the Santa Ana Police Department’s Facebook page and brought their two children, Joshua, 4, dressed as a scary clown, and Sophia, 18 months, in her “Monsters, Inc.” Sulley costume.
The Perez parents said they were thankful for the safe environment the event provided for their kids to trick-or-treat.
“This event provides us interaction with different parts of our community,” Cecilia Perez said. For safety’s sake, the couple said they intend to take their children to another trunk-or-treat event sponsored by a local church on Halloween weekend.
As families waited patiently in long lines, Santa Ana Police Dispatcher Jessica Ramirez handed treats out with fellow dispatchers.
“This is a great event for the community,” Ramirez said. “We love to see the kids dressed up, and this provides us with a chance for parents to get to know us and the department better.”
Motor Officer Rene Guerrero stood proudly alongside his motorcycle, smiling and distributing candy.
“I’m happy to see the community engaged,” Guerrero said. “This kind of event makes people more comfortable, so they ask questions and voice their concerns. It’s a great place for them to interact with us.”
Esmerelda Mendoza of Santa Ana brought her 5-year-old twins, Melissa, dressed as a unicorn witch, and Melanie, who wore a costume depicting Isabela from the recent Disney film, “Encanto.”
Mendoza said she appreciated the chance to speak with Santa Ana Public Library staffers about the online process of applying for library cards, and added that she looks forward to taking her twins to the library soon.
“This is a lot of fun, and it’s a chance for us to learn more about our community,” Mendoza said.
Busily handing out treats and coloring books to the gathered families, Diana Mazariego, a public works project specialist with the City of Santa Ana’s Water Department, said the celebration offered her the chance to remind residents that Santa Ana’s tap water wins awards for its quality.
“We love the opportunity to let residents know that it’s OK to drink water from the tap,” Mazariego said. “Many people don’t know that their tap water is safe.”
The Trunk-or-Treat evening encouraged residents to learn about the city’s many resources in a non-threatening, accessible manner, she added, with information readily available regarding the best ways to obtain answers to frequently asked questions.
“This evening is helping us build good communication between the police department and the public,” noted Megan Parent, senior clerical aide in the department’s Court Liaison Office. Parent and her colleague, Senior Clerical Aide Varely Vergara, laughed when they recalled how much extra candy they brought to the event to ensure that every child had enough.
Dr. Susie Lopez Guerra, Santa Ana Unified School District’s director of community relations, said events like Trunk-or-Treat encourage direct contact between the district and its students, staff members, and families.
“It’s important for people to feel that Santa Ana is a welcoming place for families,” Lopez Guerra said. “And isn’t it beautiful to see children out and about after so much pandemic isolation?”