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Harford County community meets local police, fire at Patterson Mill National Night Out

Future firefighter Carson Feterl, right, pretend to put out the fire with some help from Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company firefighter Michael Marino during the National Night Out event held at Patterson Mill High School Tuesday evening.
Future firefighter Carson Feterl, right, pretend to put out the fire with some help from Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company firefighter Michael Marino during the National Night Out event held at Patterson Mill High School Tuesday evening. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun)

An estimated 400 to 500 people came out Tuesday evening for Harford County’s annual National Night Out gathering, giving members of the community as well as local police, fire and EMS personnel the chance to get to know each other and develop a rapport.

The event, which was organized by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office community policing unit this year, happened in the parking lot at Patterson Mill Middle/High School south of Bel Air. People could meet representatives of the municipal police departments serving Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace, the Sheriff’s Office, Maryland State Police, Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company. They could also interact with representatives of a number of area businesses.

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The purpose was to connect county residents with multiple police, fire and EMS and business resources, according to Sgt. Aaron Penman, head of the Sheriff’s Office community policing unit.

“I’m super-pleased with the turnout,” Penman said.

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Enoch Moore, front, of Parkville looks on in amazement as he and his mom Emily Moore make their way to the Harford County Sheriff's Office Command Bus during the National Night Out event held at Patterson Mill High School Tuesday evening.
Enoch Moore, front, of Parkville looks on in amazement as he and his mom Emily Moore make their way to the Harford County Sheriff's Office Command Bus during the National Night Out event held at Patterson Mill High School Tuesday evening. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun)

People could also see the various Sheriff’s Office units and equipment, such as the agency’s command bus, tactical gear and vehicles, a patrol boat and K-9 handlers.

People could go through the H.O.P.E. House trailer, a mobile unit the Sheriff’s Office uses to educate families about drug addiction, and parents could get a photo identification card and fingerprints recorded for their children at the community policing trailer.

The rapport developed between public safety agencies and local residents helps if people need assistance with home security or want to know more about opioid addiction. It also helps when deputies must respond if a person is in crisis or a crime has happened.

“Now, they have more of a connection with their local law enforcement,” Penman said.

People could also make a connection with local military representatives. Staff Sgt. Scott Low, a Marine Corps recruiter for the Bel Air area, ran a pull-up bar that many children tried out to see how many pull-ups they could do.

Bentley Schlegel, 6, of Bel Air, pulled off six. The incoming first-grader at Red Pump Elementary School said he is also in an “American Ninja Warrior” class.

Bentley’s mother, Alex Schlegel, said her son takes the training classes at a gym in Forest Hill. Schlegel called National Night Out “awesome,” saying she and her family think it is “such a great idea that they do this.”

She praised the opportunity to get children fingerprinted, as well as to see motorcycles, police rescue vehicles and fire trucks.

“I think it’s very educational,” Schlegel said.

Low, the Marine recruiter, said he did not meet anyone old enough to join the service during National Night Out Tuesday, but operating the pull-up bar presented an opportunity to teach children about fitness and help them build self-confidence.

“You see them get all excited when they’ve done five pull-ups,” he said. “It’s kind of fun to watch.”

Chuck and Linda Hartner, of Jarrettsville, checked out a Bel Air fire truck with their 4-year-old granddaughter, Camden Hoffman, who said she wants to be a firefighter when she grows up.

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The Hartners moved from Parkville about a year ago and live with their son and daughter and their children.

“Between all the police and the fire [personnel], everyone seems like they’re enjoying themselves, having a good time,” Chuck Hartner said.

National Night Out was an opportunity for him and his family to meet their local first responders.

“It’s nice to know they’re around,” Hartner said. “Hopefully, we won’t need them, either the fire or police, but it’s good to know they’re here.”

Jamieson Boyd, 6, of Edgewood, also enjoyed seeing the firefighting apparatus, as well as police vehicles. He also enjoyed games offered at different business vendor tents where players could spin a wheel and win a prize.

Jamieson, who is going into first grade at Deerfield Elementary School, said he might be a firefighter when he grows up, since “fire looks cool, and it’s fun putting them out.”

His mother, Desiree Boyd, also praised the opportunity to get children fingerprinted and photo identification cards for them. She said she gets the ID cards for her children updated every few years.

Boyd said National Night Out is “very valuable” for getting to know local law enforcement, since “when you call them for something, you know who you’re talking to.”

Cpl. John Seilback, a K-9 handler with the Harford County Sheriff's Office, holds the leash of Diogi as the dog clamps down on a bite sleeve worn by Senior Deputy Dan Vazquez. The K-9 handlers put on demonstrations for people attending Harford County's National Night Out gathering Tuesday evening at Patterson Mill Middle/High School.
Cpl. John Seilback, a K-9 handler with the Harford County Sheriff's Office, holds the leash of Diogi as the dog clamps down on a bite sleeve worn by Senior Deputy Dan Vazquez. The K-9 handlers put on demonstrations for people attending Harford County's National Night Out gathering Tuesday evening at Patterson Mill Middle/High School. (David Anderson/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Cpl. John Seilback and Senior Deputy Dan Vazquez, K-9 officers with the Sheriff’s Office, put on a demonstration with Seilback’s dog, a 4-year-old German Shepherd named Diogi.

Seilback told the crowd that “I think I’ve got the best job in police work” because he gets paid to play with a dog and catch “bad guys” with the dog. He issued commands to Diogi in Czech to ensure he listens to his handler only.

Seilback, a 22-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, said dogs can be trained to search for suspects, conduct building searches, find evidence in a criminal investigation, search for narcotics, even detect odors of explosives and guns.

“It’s very valuable, even to be able to interact with people in a friendly face-to-face [manner],” he said of National Night Out.

Several elected officials were out and about Tuesday, including state Sen. Robert Cassilly, who represents central and southern Harford County in Annapolis.

The Republican talked about the strong “camaraderie” and “mission focus” he sees among members of Harford County’s public safety agencies at the municipal, county and state level and praised their efforts to promote inter-agency cooperation and seek regular upgrades in their technology — critical components in an era of frequent mass shootings in the United States.

Harford County itself has been the scene of several shooting incidents in recent years, such as the murder of two Sheriff’s Office deputies in Abingdon in 2016, a workplace shooting at Advanced Granite Solutions in Edgewood in 2017 and again at a Rite Aide distribution center in Perryman last year.

“You can’t rest on your laurels, right?” Cassilly said. “You’ve always got to keep [improving] because technology is so impotent to what these guys do.”

Cassilly, who sits on the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee and works on issues related to law enforcement and corrections, discussed recent meetings with Bel Air police and town officials, Harford Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, a tour of Harford’s new crisis center in Bel Air and a visit with the Bel Air Police Department’s youth summer safety camp. He said he is “just very pleased” with the many public safety services available.

“We just say a prayer, keep our fingers crossed and hope we don’t need a damn bit of it,” he said.

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