Promoting public safety often involves calling on the public itself for assistance, which is the reasoning for Dunkirk's participation in National Night Out.
The city's police department sponsored the annual event, held across the country by more than 9,000 communities, for the 21st time on Tuesday in Washington Park. A few hundred people turned out for the event to enjoy food, fun and an evening getting to know the police officers protecting them.
"This is a time when we can get the community out and talk about crime prevention," Police Chief David Ortolano said, noting about a dozen officers and several firefighters were on hand for Night Out. "The police officers come out on their own time and get a chance to meet and greet on a positive note with members of the community."
OBSERVER Photo by Greg Fox
Dunkirk Police Officer Matt Martinez hands Sophia Bautista, 4, a balloon and a frisbee during the city of Dunkirk’s 21st National Night Out on Tuesday in Washington Park.
OBSERVER Photo by Greg Fox
Makaila Rosario, 5, and Charles Rosario Jr., 8, pose with McGruff the Crime Dog during National Night Out in Dunkirk.
McGruff the Crime Dog could be seen posing for photos with many of the children in attendance. Police officers handed out frisbees, balloons, light-up buttons and coupons for McDonald's sundaes, while attendees enjoyed free pizza and desserts and listened to music by Nick and Andy. Children could even play in bounce houses.
Around dusk, "The Lego Movie" entertained kids and parents alike.
One family that decided to check out the excitement and enjoy the fresh air was the Rosario family, which included Patience and Charles Sr. and their two children, Makaila, 5, and Charles Jr., 8.
"This is something I love about Dunkirk. I love the community events they put on," Patience said, adding her husband learned about Night Out through Facebook. "They help get the kids outside instead of sitting inside in front of a TV."
Ortolano reported the event got a fairly decent crowd around 7 p.m., despite a heavy downpour just hours prior. He added crime prevention is not only a police department issue; it is a community issue.
"Our guys (during Night Out) are making those connections that maybe tomorrow, next week, next year, pays off in dividends when we need to go back to the community and when we're trying to solve a crime," he said. "These people will step forward because they'll remember those guys. We can't do it without the people, there's no question, and a lot of our successes are a result of the community getting involved."
Ortolano thanked the Night Out coordinators for their efforts, including Arlene Langendorfer, Donna Howlett, Ruby Green and Lorie Herman. He also thanked sponsors for their support, including Blasdell Pizza, Tops Markets, Walmart, Southpaw Signs, P&G Foods, Paper Factory, Midtown Realty, McDonald's, G&E Tents, Awesome Bouncers, Save-a-Lot, Atlas Comfort Cabins and Tim Hortons.
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