Sgt. Scott Smith was fully decked out in the kind of gear that SWAT team members wear, but on this occasion there was no crisis or emergency for the Orlando Police Department officer to respond to.
In fact, Smith was expecting a very different kind of evening – with kids asking plenty of questions about what he did, and how he used all that exciting-looking equipment.
“I expect to just answer questions about the police in general,” he said, as he entered the College Park Community Center.
At the same time, Smith brought along a friend, and he was ready to concede that his co-worker might very well upstage him a bit. As a member of OPD’s K9 unit, Smith had driven over to the Community Center with Sabre, a three-year-old K9 team member.
“I’m sure the kids will all want to see the dog,” Smith said.
On Tuesday, the Orlando Police Department took part in an annual event that allows residents to meet, socialize – and also learn more about public safety and what they can do to protect themselves from becoming crime victims.
In past years, the city of Orlando has ranked third in the nation for participation in National Night Out – billed as “America’s Night Out Against Crime.” In recent years, more than 37,000 Orlando residents have hosted more than 100 block parties in 70 neighborhoods, with the goal of promoting public safety.
National Night Out was started in 1984 to promote neighborhood involvement in crime prevention activities and to advance neighborhood camaraderie. It’s grown enormously since then, and now involves an estimated 37 million people from 15,000 communities across all 50 states, U.S. Territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide.
Smith started the evening visiting the block party being held at the College Park Community Center – but it certainly wasn’t the only block party he was going to.
“I have so many to go to tonight,” he said. “I will probably do five or six, and that’s just in the north end of the city.”
But the block parties, he added, serve a great purpose: to establish a connection, and line of communication, between local residents and their law enforcement officers.
“That’s what this while event is about, to keep the lines of communication open,” Smith said.
Brett Barker, an engineer with the Orlando Fire Department, was also at the College Park Community Center block party, but with a different mission. He had a fire engine in the parking lot, ready for tours.
“We’re going to be doing a demonstration of the fire truck, and the kids will be able to see it,” he said.
Barker was also there to help promote awareness of Mayor Buddy Dyer’s ongoing efforts to train every Orlando resident in hands-only CPR.
Last September, College Park became the first neighborhood in the city to host a Take Heart Orlando Hands Only CPR Training session, sponsored by the city and the Orlando Fire Department. Dyer wants to make Orlando one of the healthiest cities in the nation by training every resident in hands only cardiopulmonary resuscitation, an emergency procedure done to manually preserve intact brain function until emergency professionals can restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person in cardiac arrest.
As Dyer has noted, even a basic knowledge of CPR means any resident of Orlando knows what to do in the event of a medical emergency.
“It’s been going well,” Barker said. “We have a lot of people interested in it. It only takes about a half hour to learn. It’s actually very quick, once people grasp the basic concept of it.”
National Night Out is held on the second week of August every year to promote safety and to send a message to criminals that neighbors are banding together to fight back.
The block party in August 2013 represented the first year that the College Park Community Center had hosted a National Night Out event.
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