Oh, What a ‘Night’!

Liam Araki, age 4, gets a seat on a police motorcycle Tuesday during National Night Out at Orange Grove Park. He’s joined by SPPD motor officer Jeff Holland (left) and Chief Joe Ortiz. Photo by Henk Friezer

This past Tuesday, residents of all ages gathered at Orange Grove Park in South Pasadena for National Night Out — an annual event that promotes community building between neighbors, law enforcement and city organizations, in addition to educating the public about crime prevention and available resources.

“National Night Out is a nationwide event that started in Texas in 1984,” said Joe Ortiz, South Pasadena’s Chief of Police.

“Back then, people participated by turning on their porch lights to let neighbors know they were safe. Now neighborhoods, communities and businesses in towns across the United States come together on the first Tuesday of August every year. I’ve been in law enforcement for almost 27 years and I’ve been part of just about every National Night Out. It’s a great opportunity to engage in conversation with different people in a mellow and fun venue.”

The free event featured an assortment of game booths and activities for children, including a rock climbing wall, as well as food trucks and music. Various organizations had booths at the event with educational materials about their services, including the Pasadena Humane Society & Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

“This is my first year participating and it’s been a really great turnout,” said Loni Watson, Humane Education Coordinator for the Humane Society.

“We’re sharing information about some new offerings including our Kids Club, which engages kids and teens with animals, as well as Scout Sundays — a new workshop that offers Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts the opportunity to earn a Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA patch by participating in education, enrichment and service. We’re also offering Coyote workshops for those struggling with the challenges that come with living near these animals. It’s nice to be here to meet a lot of the local residents and spread awareness about our different services.”

In addition, most city services were represented, including the city manager’s office and the library.

At the South Pasadena Police Department’s booth, officers posed for pictures with attendees, distributed educational materials and sold commemorative pink patches to benefit breast cancer awareness.

“We’re trying to get more people involved in their local Neighborhood Watch,” said Richard Lee, a detective, crime analyst and crime prevention officer. “Tonight we’re enjoying meeting everyone and educating them about crime trends, recent scams and other important information. Our pink patches are selling for $10 each and we’re also offering a $15 special for all three of our patches from the past three years. All proceeds will go to City of Hope.”

The South Pasadena Fire Department was also present, along with the South Pasadena Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) — a community-based group of volunteers that educates others in preparation, training and responding in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency. Event attendees had the opportunity to learn basic CPR from the Fire Department and emergency preparedness from CERT.

“This is my second time participating in National Night Out,” said a CERT volunteer. “There have been several recent earthquakes which have stressed people out, so we’re here to educate the public on ways they can help others and themselves by showing them what to do and what not to do. This is a really great event that the city puts on for the community.”

South Pasadena Fire Chief Paul Riddle added, “While the evening focuses on city services and public safety, the ultimate result is the community comes together to support and get to know one another. It helps break down some of the barriers that are sometimes counter-productive in our society.”