(Photo above left) SPPD Explorers were impressed with the crowd and especially when Martha Brown announced Michael Laub donated $200 to the youth program because “they work so hard.” Accepting the check (left to right) are Explorer Rebekah Rodriquez, Santa Paula Reserve Officer Dave Curran, Martha Brown, Michael Laub, Explorer Matthew Galvan, Explorer Ashley Moreno, and Explorer Miguel Andres. The goal of National Night Out is to encourage neighbors to get to know each other better and encourage them to form Neighborhood Watch groups in their area. But it’s also just to bring neighborhoods together. Above (right photo), residents of the Oaks Mobile Estate listen as the Santa Paula Fire Department talk about their fire equipment.

National Night Out: Unique neighborhood safety events held Saturday

August 19, 2009
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesSanta Paula’s National Night Out! (NNO) was held Saturday, later than those events held nationwide, but attaining the same goal to promote safety and the advantages of knowing your neighbor. In recent months, Santa Paula Fire Captain/Emergency Response Coordinator Steve Lazenby told the City Council the city’s two-year-old Citizens Corps has “every year been successful in tying things together... it’s very valuable.”The National Night Out event, “really a law enforcement effort,” for a quarter of a century has encouraged neighbors to get together for one evening either just to visit, enjoy a BBQ or stage a block party. Lazenby said the offshoot of such gatherings is to “bolster or establish new Neighborhood Watch programs,” and the evening includes drop in visits from public safety personnel, “just to get to know each other better, show off our equipment and visit with the residents.”Lazenby said arranging for the five participating neighborhoods was not difficult. “I got out into the community and gathered them up... some of those participating were easy,” including Hillview Estates, Rancho Santa Paula and 1500 Richmond Road.The event slated for the Oaks “had more than 100 people who attended.” Planned events, said Lazenby, were varied: “There were some neighborhoods who got together to have some wine and cheese, some held a barbecue, and some a block party with live music.”The goal of National Night Out is to “encourage neighbors to get to know each other better and encourage them to form Neighborhood Watch groups in their area. But it’s also just to bring neighborhoods together,” following the national model of showing that crime and criminals are not welcome additions to the neighborhood that has forged a new, stronger bond.“National Night Out opens up that network; and instead of just the people next door they become someone familiar, not just a name and a face. That’s a big part of it” that promotes paying closer attention to those surrounding you, especially in times of emergency.National Night Out events featured visits by Santa Paula Fire and Police personnel that “came by and did a show-and-tell and intermingled with everybody” including McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog, who entertained and educated the children. Lazenby noted many of the neighborhoods participating Saturday night have been involved in CERT, “which shows they are already actively involved in taking care of their community.”CERT President Mike Gray was at the Oaks block party, and said he hopes National Night Out becomes an annual Santa Paula event to “get the whole neighborhood talking with each other... we already have Neighborhood Watch, it’s real strong here in the Oaks.” Gray hopes next year the event can be held at a larger venue to accommodate more residents of the Oaks area.
Martha Brown also has a history of community involvement: the CERT secretary coordinated the Oaks event that she hoped would result in “people feeling comfortable in coming to one another” in times of disaster or emergency. She noted numerous people donated to the event, including “our wonderful neighbors.”SPPD Sergeant Jimmy Fogata said Officers, Reserves and Explorers had been visiting the numerous National Night Out sites since 3 p.m. “Everyone has been very receptive” to the police presence, as well as finding out the various community public safety programs that are available.“They didn’t know what we had and were very excited about our department’s programs... they all thought it was the greatest thing,” including Fogata’s K-9 partner Evan, “a big hit. Everybody wanted to hug and kiss him.”SPPD Explorer Rebekah Rodriguez was also “really impressed” by her first National Night Out experience, and with those residents who expressed an interest in the SPPD and its public safety programs. The SPPD Explorers were impressed themselves when Brown announced Michael Laub had donated $200 to the youth program because “they work so hard.”“Any crime prevention program you’re interested in we’ll bring to you,” Fogata told the crowd, and he noted the Explorers and Reserves are unpaid volunteers who are vital to department operations.Lazenby said for next year’s National Night Out he would like to double the number of participating neighborhoods to 10.

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