Turnout high for night out

Hundreds of people from throughout Auglaize County turned out Tuesday for National Night Out at the Harmon Park Gazebo in Wapakoneta.

“It seems to get bigger every year,” Wapakoneta Police Chief Russ Hunlock said. “It is a good way for us to interact  with the citizens.”

National Night Out, which is held the first Tuesday each year in August, is hosted in more than 15,000 communities in all 50 states.

Hunlock said it is a chance for the community to meet many of the law enforcement personnel and get to know them. Approximately 25 law enforcement personnel were on hand Tuesday from throughout the county, including deputies with the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office, troopers with the Wapakoneta Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol and police officers with the Wapakoneta, St. Marys, and New Knoxville police departments, as well as agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and firefighters from the Wapakoneta Fire Department and EMS.

“This gives us a chance to interact with people and let them see that we are not robots,” Hunlock said. “It encourages the public to call us when there is a problem. We can’t solve all crime on our own and sometimes we need support from the citizens.”

Wapakoneta K-9 Rico also made an appearance and gave a demonstration of his abilities to the delight of a large crowd.

Hunlock said he feels the event has its desired impact.

“It encourages the public to call us when there is a problem,” Hunlock said. “We take this as a way to develop a partnership in taking care of crime. There is no way to keep statistics to measure the impact, but I think it is obvious by the turnout.”

Lawrence Wallace brought his two children, ages two and four, to the event for the first time and said it was a great event for residents to communicate with law enforcement.

“A lot of times kids will think police officers are bad, and they are there just to arrest you or get you in trouble,” Wallace said. “This gives them a chance to meet with the different officers and see they are doing a good thing. My kids love it. They can’t wait to see the K-9 show.”

Amy Tester was at the event for the first time and helped bring a local Girl Scout troop to the event.

“I think this definitely helps with raising awareness throughout the communities,” Tester said. “It is a pretty good turnout and we have had the chance to talk with many of the different agencies.”

Carrie Roode brought her two young children and two nieces to enjoy the festivities.

“I think this helps the kids open up more to the police department and other agencies,” Roode said. “This is our first time coming and the kids have had a great time.”

Attendees could treat themselves to hot dogs, drinks, chips and goodies, and goody bags and balloons were handled out to all the children during the 2-hour event held at the Rotary-Ferald Ritchie Gazebo in Harmon Park.

The Wapakoneta Noon Optimists helped out, handing out the balloons and helping children get fitted for free bicycle helmets. Child identification kits also were available at the event. A raffle drawing featured pool passes, a girl’s and a boy’s 20-inch bicycle and other prizes. Music was played for the duration of the event.

A LifeFlight helicopter made an appearance and children had a chance to check out the helicopter up close.