By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — More than 60 dozen hot dogs, 41 dozen of hamburgers and 30 dozen of cookies were consumed last year during the annual National Night Out, sponsored by the Mt. Vernon Police Department.
This year's event has been scheduled from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 6 at Veterans Memorial Park.
City police officers and community members have an opportunity to socialize in a family-friendly environment, while eating, playing games and interacting, according to DARE officer and National Night Out Coordinator Ray Gilbert.
"It's the same event that we do each year for the community," Gilbert said. "Each year it seems to be bigger and bigger no matter what the weather is like."
National Night Out began in the mid 1980's to promote involvement is crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, neighborhood camaraderie and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back. The first year, 2.5 million Americans took part across 400 communities in 23 states. Now, the event includes over 37 million people and 15,000 communities from all 50 states, according to the organization's web site.
"We want the community to meet us … to meet us outside of our everyday work routine. Most all of our officers will be working at the various activities that are set up, and this is a good opportunity for the community to see us in a more social environment," Gilbert said.
In addition to the free food, K-9 demonstrations will be given, blood pressure checks will be given and children can be fingerprinted at no charge.
"Last year, I fingerprinted around 150 children," Gilbert said, adding, "The kit not only offers fingerprinting, but it collects valuable information such as DNA and allows us to create an identification card."
Other activities include the Dunk-A-Cop, trackless train, kid combo Buccaneer, hockey snapshot, soccer challenge, giant dual slide, tropical toddler town, baseball fast pitch, inflate-a-hoops and clown/face painters.
Jefferson County Crime Stoppers will offer free snow cones.
"We get very positive feedback after this event. We encourage people to look at our Facebook page for the activities we have planned. It's a good time for everyone, and the officers look forward to meeting new friends," Gilbert said.