For the first time since the pandemic, Westminster and Seal Beach police departments teamed up to cohost a night of family-friendly fun for National Night Out at Pavilions Place on Aug. 2.
The departments, as well as other public safety entities, gave community members a peek into their lives with K9 demonstrations, fire trucks for children to explore, an animal control vehicle, information on emergency preparedness and other educational materials, and the opportunity for residents to get to know their local public safety officials.
National Night Out is a nationwide event created to encourage the community to help take a stand against crime. Public agencies use the opportunity to educate the community on local programs and services.
The Westminster Police Officers Association handed out free hot dogs and cold drinks to community members.
“I’ve been with the department coming up on 25 years. It’s nice to have an opportunity to give back,” Westminster Police Commander Alan Iwashita said while manning the grill.
Nearby at a West County SWAT armored vehicle, Brian Do, 11, of Santa Ana was among the children who gathered in line for the chance to handle an unloaded submachine and try on a helmet and plate carrier. Meanwhile, families pointed at a small drone piloted by a detective.
Families with young children were dazzled by the Orange County Fire Authority engine and firefighters.
“It feels wonderful to bring this back to the community,” said Westminster Police Chief Darin Lenyi. “I really do believe in community-police interactions, letting the community see who we are and what we do and our equipment because we’re their police department. We’re there for their safety and we want them to feel comfortable with us. We want them to contact us when they need us.”
Animal Control Officer Crystal Sheldon, a nine-year Westminster police veteran, greeted visitors by her vehicle with kennel doors propped open to show a fluffy raccoon doll hiding inside. She smiled as Westminster Police Volunteer Ken Deagle lined children up to throw darts at balloons and win prizes.
“I like being able to talk to people in a non-confrontational area,” Sheldon said. “They’re not all up in arms about a coyote taking their pet.”
With coyote pups growing into adulthood in July, Sheldon recently encountered a couple of coyotes wandering neighborhoods. She enjoyed educating community members on tips for co-existing with the wild canines: bring pets indoors at dawn and dusk, don’t leave out pet food and water, and haze coyotes who come too close to people.
Sandra McClure, a Westminster resident and volunteer with West Orange County Regional CERT Team, crewed a booth to help community members ensure their household is prepared for an emergency. Families often forget to pack medication for older family members and pets, she said.
For the first time since the pandemic’s start, the West County CERT Academy will return in September at the Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos. The four-day class covers first aid, light search and rescue, fire suppression, and disaster psychology.
“The hands-on stuff is the best part,” McClure said.
The evening culminated with community members huddling to watch a demonstration by K9 handler Officer Steve Booth and his K9, Dragon. Officer Chris Do donned a bite suit to show off the four-year-old Dutch Shepherd’s strength and determination.