On Tuesday night, Newport Beach celebrated two National Night Out events, which gave residents a chance to meet with police and learn more about crime prevention.
National Night Out is observed by many police departments and cities through the U.S., Canada, and even on U.S. military bases around the world. It is always held on the first Tuesday in August.
“It’s an opportunity for us to connect with our community outside of regular ‘police work,’” said police department spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella. “It’s a great opportunity for our staff to talk to people, to answer their questions, and to just get to know each other a little better.”
The police department hosted its 16th National Night Out at Bonita Canyon Sports Park. A bounce house, games, free burgers and fries from TK Burgers, and a host of displays ranging from Animal Control to Crime Scene Investigation unit were on hand, but this particular event is known for being quite the dog and pony show — police dogs and ponies, that is.
The city’s K-9 unit informed residents on how Kajo, the 3-year Belgian Malinois, and his canine comrades work with their human officers. Kajo enjoyed attention from his admirers, while Officer Todd Wilson discussed the various tools that police dogs and trainers use. The two arrived in a special police K-9 vehicle with Kajo’s name and likeness on the side.
On an evening of unusually humid weather, ominous distant thunder kept members of the Mounted Unit in their trailer for some time. But once the weather cleared, police horses Stogie, Huck, and Cricket came out to the delight of everyone.
“They do better in a pack than they do alone,” said Police Volunteer Lori Hayden. The horses were not startled by the distant rumbling, she said, but a loud sudden clap of thunder would have been a different matter.
The horses and Officer Shawn Dugan are a frequent sight at large gatherings in the city.
“For crowd control, they do a lot of good,” said Sergeant Brandon Rodriguez, who oversees the Mounted Unit as well as the bike patrol. The horses’ high visibility also helps prevent crime.
“They’re so big, so visible, we hope that the bad guys drop what they’re doing when they see them,” Rodriguez added.
The neighborhood of Spyglass Hill also held a National Night Out event on Tuesday at Spyglass Hill Park. All attendees wore name tags and were treated to burgers, sodas, and ice cream. There were games galore and even a watermelon eating contest.
City Councilman Jeff Herdman said that it was his first time at a National Night Out event.
“I’m very impressed. This is a beautiful park and a great turnout,” Herdman said.
Picnic Chairperson Therese Loutherback agreed that it was a remarkable turnout. It was only the fourth time Spyglass Hill hosted their own National Night Out. She said that 350 people RSVP’d for hamburgers before the event.
“This is the most we’ve ever had,” Loutherback noted.
As the chair of their Neighborhood Watch group, she said they’ve recently begun a weekly party called “Front Porch Friday Night.” Each Friday night, a different family hosts a party at their house for residents of the neighborhood.
Loutherback said that events like this and others make residents more aware of ways to prevent crime, but it also brings them closer together.
“Crime is down,” she said, “because people are watching out for each other and reporting suspicious activities.”
She added that she was grateful to Councilman Will O’Neill, who gave $2,000 from his discretionary fund to help pay for the event.
But O’Neill said it was actually District 2 representative Brad Avery who should be thanked.
“Former Councilman Keith Curry had used the entire District 7 discretionary fund before I was elected, so Councilman Brad Avery generously provided $2,000 from his discretionary fund after I asked,” said O’Neill, who was joined at the Spyglass Hill event by fellow council members Herdman, Scott Peotter, and Mayor Kevin Muldoon. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and his wife Rhonda were present as well.
“National Night Out celebrates the best aspects of community bonding. Our police department and its many volunteers work hard to keep our community safe and vibrant. Seeing our community turn out to support its police and each other reminds me how blessed we are to live and thrive in Newport Beach,” O’Neill commented.
O’Neill, along with Police Chief Jon Lewis, visited both events on Tuesday night.
“For us, it’s a great opportunity,” said Lewis. He commended the Spyglass Hill neighborhood for their dedication to crime prevention, noting that “it’s really the community who put this together.”