Williams National Night Out promotes community bonding

The Williams Police Department last week celebrated the 35th National Night Out with a neighborhood block party that included a free barbecue and fun activities.

National Night Out is an annual event, held throughout the U.S. the first Tuesday in August, and is intended to be a fun, family event that helps enhance the relationship between law enforcement and their communities, said Williams Police Chief Ed Anderson.

“National Night Out is a community event where people can come out and get to know their first responders who serve them every day so they can feel that we are people they can trust and someone they can turn to in their time of need,” Anderson said.

According to the National Night Out website, about 38 million people in 16,000 communities across the U.S. participated in the event on Aug. 7.

The Williams Police Department has hosted National Night Out event sporadically for several years, due to limited staff and volunteers, but Anderson said he hopes to make this an annual event as it is intended.

Despite poor air quality from the Mendocino Fire, the Williams event was fairly well attended, and provided food and activities. Most importantly, the event provided a safe space to local agencies to promote partnerships between law enforcement and community.

Those who attended the event got to meet Officer Jenn Parker and K-9 partner Jaaco, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, used mostly for narcotic detection and suspect apprehension.
“He is also trained to locate missing children,” said Parker.

Parker has been a law enforcement officer for 10 years, and has spent the last five years with the Williams Police Department.

She has been with Jaaco since he was a puppy, and he will stay with her when he is retired for service.

“I’m so lucky to have him,” she said. “He is like a member of the family.”

Also on hand was School Resource Officer Jonathan Hindo, who spends his days mostly on the campuses of the Williams Unified School District.

The Colusa County District Attorney, Colusa County Victim Witness, and the Williams Fire Department also participated.

“This is a Williams Police Department event, but they asked us to help them out,” said Assistant Fire Chief Esteban Torres. “They provided the hot dogs and all the stuff, and we provided the barbecue and did the cooking.”

Kids got the biggest bang out of the event, getting stuff like fire hats, free coloring books, crayons, pencils, and pens, much of which came from the firefighters.

Torres said National Night Out was a great opportunity to get information about fire safety into the hands of children and their parents.

“It’s basically a meet and greet,” he said. “Any questions that people have, we are here to answer.”

Victim Witness advocate Mary Godinez-York said National Night Out also provided her agency an opportunity to get information about services into the hands of people who are victimized or witness to crime.

“Many people, especially the Hispanic community, are not aware that services even exist,” she said.

The Williams Police Department provided information about identity theft.

Joselyne Ruiz, 10, a fifth grader at Williams Middle School, had never attended a Williams National Night Out event before, until she came last week with a neighbor.

“I didn’t know what it was, but I’m glad I came,” she said. “It was fun, and I enjoyed it.”
Ruiz said of all the questions she had for police officers and firefighters, she most wanted to know what it was like to save people.