Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies swarmed Memorial Park on Tuesday night, but they weren't there to give out tickets or make arrests. Instead, they joined foothill residents in presenting a united front against crime as part of the 27th annual National Night Out.
The event, which was replicated in parks and neighborhoods throughout the country, is used by law enforcement to engage local residents and educate them about the role they can play in creating safe environments.
"We have our own detectives and our own police who are out there working proactively, but it always helps when you get the help from the community," Sheriff's Deputy Eric Matejka said. "And they can help themselves by starting neighborhood watch groups and getting to know their neighbors. That way they see who belongs and who doesn't, and if there is a problem they can give us a call."
At expos in La Cañada and La Crescenta, hosted by the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station, children posed for pictures with Los Angeles County firefighters, tested out Montrose Search and Rescue equipment, and had their fingerprints taken by a fingerprinting expert. Parents were asked to fill out child identification booklets that could be used by public safety officials if a child goes missing.
And county volunteer groups, including Los Angeles County Disaster Communications Services, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and the Montrose Search and Rescue team were on hand to give residents information on emergency preparedness. The groups played critical roles in the Crescenta-Cañada area during last year's Station fire.
"To me there is no reason not to be involved in your community," said John Rodarte, a La Cañada-based pediatrician and member of the Montrose Search and Rescue team. "The more you know about [available resources] the more you can do not only to help yourself, but to help others."
Foothill residents can protect themselves from being victimized, sheriff's deputies said, by locking homes and vehicles and never leaving valuables in sight.
In addition, business owners can safeguard themselves by having appropriate security on site, including an alarm system and security camera, said Pat Anderson, chief executive officer of the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce. And people should never hesitate to call the sheriff's station, she added.
"One thing [the community] can do that would be a big help is to report any suspicious activity and don't worry about whether it is or is not OK, just report it and let the Sheriff's Department figure that out," Anderson said.