By Shinji Lin
For the very first time in the city’s history, National Night Out – or San Marino Night Out, as it will be known from this day forward – was held this past Tuesday in Lacy Park.
In 1984, the National Night Out campaign was started by the National Association of Town Watch, making Tuesday night the 34th annual event.
Traditionally held on the first Tuesday in August, National Night Out is a crime and drug awareness event that creates a sense of solidarity among members of the community. Organized by the San Marino Police Department, National Night Out serves to replace the San Marino Police and Fire Open House in October, which was more city-oriented.
Along the grassy area of the park’s inner circle, tents and police vehicles were set up representing organizations that support San Marino Night Out who spoke with community members about anti-crime efforts. Organizations included Post Alarm Systems, San Marino Security Systems, the Chinese Club, the Rotary Club, California American Water, the San Marino City Club, Fire and Safety Education, New York Life, and the San Marino Recreation Department.
In addition, the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs’ Association had a “Dunk a Cop” tank. There was a $5 cost for three chances to hit the button that dunked police officers, including San Marino Police Chief John Incontro into a tank of water. The money was donated to the Pink Patch Project to fight breast cancer.
Given the tropical conditions, the water wasn’t a bad place to be.
After he had dried off, Incontro explained that he felt the event was a success.
“This is an event that focuses on community working with the police and other community groups to solve crime problems along with building a better and safer community,” Incontro told The Tribune. “Since we have had an increase in crime, what better event to host then one focusing on the community and ways all of us can reduce crime in San Marino. Former LAPD Chief and State Senator Ed Davis created the 20 management principles of policing many years ago. One of his principals was “The Public are the Police.” This means that the police department must have a relationship with the police. One of openness and cooperative work. We are not able to be on every street or in every business. So to reduce crime and the fear of crime we must work in cooperation with the public we serve.”
San Marino Fire Chief Mario Rueda arrived at a similar conclusion.
“San Marino Night Out in Lacy Park exceeded our expectations,” he said. “It wasn’t full of speeches, nor did it have a formal program, but it was an opportunity for our community to come together. We rely on our relationship with the community and that requires trust and reciprocation. I think whether it’s formal or informal, San Marino Night Out is good for everybody.”
Indeed, the event displayed a sense of community in San Marino. Residents were mingling with police officers and firefighters and the feeling of the event was cheerful and friendly, despite the thunder and rainfall from above.
San Marino Night Out included train rides, face painting, and balloons for children. Each attendee received a free hot dog from the Speedy Dog food truck. A fire demonstration took place and children received plastic fire helmets and fire department stickers.
At 7:30 p.m., families settled on the grass to watch the animated film ‘Sing,’ with free popcorn available until the end of the event.
“It’s for people to come out and spend an evening getting to know the police, making some friends, or maybe talking to other people in the community, not just come talking to us,” San Marino Police Corporal Kenric Wu, said. “They’ll see their friends wherever people are talking to each other. Our gift to this is the Neighborhood Watch. We’re trying to get everyone to know each other anyways, so this helps out that.”
Incontro said that the department has already discussed ways to improve next year’s event and thanked several community members for their participation.
“We were extremely happy with the support of all our community members who participated, supported us and assisted with the event,” he said. “We thank the San Marino Fire Dept., the Recreation and Public Works and Parks Departments for all of their work along with San Marino’s Rotary Club, Chinese Club, City Club and the Lions Club for assisting and providing information for the event. Additionally, I thank Miriam Nakamura and Dolores Dyer for the beautiful balloon designs.”