Dozens of police officers walked Tuesday evening around Fircrest Community Center, but they weren’t there to arrest anyone.
The officers represented various local law enforcement agencies for National Night Out, an annual event on the first Tuesday in August that promotes community safety and crime prevention.
Communities around the nation put on individual events on the same day; the National Association of Town Watch estimates 15,000 communities put on events for more than 37 million people this year.
Hundreds gathered at the Fircrest event to enjoy fun activities and law enforcement demonstrations.
Kids drank frozen hot chocolate and ate hot dogs, while others bounced around inflatable jungle gyms. Families saw firefighters demonstrate how the Jaws of Life works to extract trapped passengers from a car and watched a helicopter land in the field nearby.
Jackson Wallen, 3, and his brother Cooper, 5, were deputized for the night as junior officers in the Tacoma Police Department, indicated by stickers on their shirts.
McGruff the Crime Dog also joined the event to give kids high-fives and pose for pictures.
John Norquist brought his three children — Ella, 5, Julia, 3, and Nicholas, 1.
“We have a pretty tight group of neighbors with kids the same age,” Norquist said.
He said he appreciates the sense of community responsibility promoted by the event, as well as the presence of police.
“I think it’s good for the kids to see the nicer side of law enforcement.”
In the opening ceremony, Fircrest Mayor Dave Viafore welcomed the crowd and urged people to take the message of the event to heart.
“Let’s stay safe and protect one another,” he said.
Russell Ivy, a firefighter/EMT for 20 years, said it’s important for neighbors to get to know each other.
“The people come out and get to meet each other, and they start doing things in the neighborhood,” he said.
Matt Peskin, executive director of the National Association of Town Watch, introduced National Night Out in 1984. Peskin says on the organization’s website that even though the event happens just one night a year, the effects can be felt more broadly.
“While the one night is certainly not an answer to crime, drugs and violence, National Night Out represents the kind of spirit, energy and determination to help make neighborhoods safer places year round,” he said.Leah Traxel: 253 597-8670