Community members, officers connect at Orange PD's National Night Out

By Lou Ponsi

Judging by the smiles, laughs and oohs and aahs, Orange Police Department’s annual National Night Out was another rousing success.

Despite the muggy, drizzly weather, thousands turned out to the Home Depot parking lot on Tustin Avenue on Tuesday, Aug. 1 to connect with their police department at the family-friendly event, designed to build stronger ties between the police and the community.

Youngsters straddled police motorcycles, unable to resist reaching for the buttons and switches on the dash.

Neighborhood Watch captains gather for a group photo during Orange PD’s National Night Out on Aug. 1.
Photo by Christine Cotter

Kids had their faces turned into works of art, and they also donned high-tech SWAT gear.

They shook hands, high-fived and proudly posed for photos with officers.

At center stage, Bosco, one of the Orange PDs K9s, dazzled the crowd with his mad smelling skills, sniffing out a well-hidden package containing illegal drugs.

The City of Orange Police Department Color Guard at National Night Out.
Photo by Christine Cotter

K9 Griffin delighted the crowd by clamping his teeth on a “suspect’s” arm and not letting go.

And when the K9s weren’t showcasing their crime-fighting skills, they were available to the public for petting.

“The event is really an opportunity for the entire community to come out and meet the police department … and find out the resources available to them,” said Orange PD crime prevention specialist Michelle Micallef, who has been organizing and promoting National Night Out for her agency for the past 11 years. “It’s all about bringing the community and the police together to strengthen their partnership in fighting crime.”

Orange Police Department Officer Dan Norman sings the National Anthem.
Photo by Christine Cotter

Every division of the department was on display, including the bike, SWAT and traffic units.

Orange PD also used the event to honor its 280 Neighborhood Watch volunteers.

More than 100 posed for a group photo, holding replica street signs of their respective streets.

“They help support our patrol by being their eyes and ears,” Micallef said of the volunteers. “It’s a great partnership.”

SWAT Team members Andrew Evans and Officer John Jensen at the Orange Police Department’s National Night Out on Aug. 1.
Photo by Christine Cotter

Members of Orange Elks Lodge 1475, which helps pay for the K9s and participates in the department’s Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership, known as GRIP, handed out drug-prevention literature.

“It’s a great way for people to just come out and see and touch and feel and meet,” Elks member Mike Cash said of National Night Out.

And there were giveaways…lots of giveaways.

Orange PD Officer Bryan Thaete helps a crying Rylee Kobayashi off of a police motorcycle during National Night Out on Aug. 1.
Photo by Christine Cotter

Among the organizations donating to the causes were In-N-Out Burger, Polly’s Pies, Papa John Pizza, Knott’s Berry Farm, McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A and Edible Arrangements.

“We moved to Orange three years ago and have come all three years,” said Erika Kobayashi, who came with her 10-month-old son, Rylee, and 3-year-old daughter, Emi. “It’s a lot of fun to get out and see all the different parts of the community. It’s good exposure for the kids.”

Always held on the first Tuesday in August, National Night Out began in 1984 as a crime prevention and community building campaign.

Orange Police Department Chief Tom Kisela addresses community members during National Night Out on Aug. 1.
Photo by Christine Cotter

The first National Night Out drew 2.5 million people, spanning 400 communities in 23 states, according to the event’s website.

This year, an estimated 38 million turned out in 16,000 communities around the country.

“It’s great to see the community of Orange coming together to celebrate America’s Night Out Against Crime,” Orange PD Chief Tom Kisela said. “Orange and (thousands) of other communities around the United States are participating in the event, which is emblematic of the spirit, commitment and determination we have to making our communities safer.”

Ryker Booms stops by the Orange PD’s SWAT Team booth during National Night Out.
Photo by Christine Cotter

Marta Perez takes her turn on an Orange Police Department motorcycle.
Photo by Christine Cotter

Community members were able to view the Orange Police Department’s Mobile Command Post.
Photo by Christine Cotter

Terrie Schatz, aka Elroy the Elk, was on hand to entertain visitors.
Photo by Christine Cotter

Orange PD volunteers during National Night Out on Aug. 1.
Photo by Christine Cotter

David Marroquin, 8, gets his face painted during the Orange Police Department’s National Night Out.
Photo by Christine Cotter

National Night Out balloons were handed out during the event.
Photo by Christine Cotter

Neighborhood Watch captains gather for a group photo during Orange PD’s National Night Out on Aug. 1.
Photo by Christine Cotter