National Night Out touted as a huge success despite the heat. Photo by Henk Friezer

Scores of South Pasadena residents braved the blistering temperatures on Tuesday night – the gauge was registering triple digits well after dusk – to enjoy an event at Orange Grove Park that brings first responders closer to the community.  

The event was National Night Out (NNO), founded in 1984, and it’s an opportunity for police and fire along with other city departments to mingle with the community in an informal setting.

Many residents on hand said it was their first time at the event, while others had come to NNO several times before. They all agreed that NNO is a boost for the community.

“This is my second time and it’s just as good this year as it was last,” Rana Itani said as she watched her son, Omar, climb the rock wall provided by the South Pasadena Police Association. “I really applaud the city for doing this. It doesn’t cost anything. Everything is free, and it brings the community closer together with public safety. And that’s very important.”

The event was from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday and there were a variety of public services on display, including a hands-on demonstration of CPR.

Fire Chief Paul Riddle was on hand and said NNO provides the community an opportunity to see what services are offered in the city.

“These are great,” Riddle said at the event. “We usually have around 500 or so people that come through. The heat might be a factor. We’ll have to look and see.”

Members of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Public Safety Commissioners were available as were inflatables for the kids, games, food and music.

National Night Out started small and informal with neighbors turning on their porch lights to show support of public safety, according to the National Association of Town Watch, which sponsors NNO nationally. The first NNO involved 2.5 million residents across 400 communities in 16 states, according to data on the Town Watch website. In 2016, those numbers increased to 36 million residents in 16,000 communities across the nation.

So Pas Police Chief Art Miller, who has said he’s leaving his post as chief at the end of next week, said National Night Out has evolved into an important way for first responders to build strong ties with the community.

“National Night Out is another opportunity for our community to meet key members of the city,” Miller said during an earlier interview. “Meeting in a park venue creates an environment where ideas and information can be shared. The more our community members come out to meet one another, the more information they will have to feel safe. All entities are important to create a holistic approach to living in our safe city.”

Manuel Espaldon, a resident of Manila in the Philippines, was visiting his daughter and echoed Miller’s comments.

“I can’t believe this,” Espaldon said. “It’s incredible. This is such a great community. To have the community come together with law enforcement and fire officials is remarkable. It’s unheard of where I’m from. I wish we had this back home. I love this city.”

Steve Whitmore
Author

Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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