Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Collier County’s Biggest National Night Out Ever

Deputies, kids and residents came together Tuesday night to promote safer neighborhoods as communities celebrated the Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s biggest-ever National Night Out.

Deputies in all six CCSO districts took a break from crime fighting to roll out bounce houses, rock walls, pony rides, live music, games, hot dogs, pizza, and much, much more. Nearly 5,000 people attended the events, which took place throughout Collier County.

“Without a doubt this was the biggest and best year we have ever had,” Collier County Sheriff Kevin J. Rambosk said. “This level of participation reflects the positive relationships we have developed with our community partners and the citizens of Collier County. This represents community policing at its best.”

Sara Ascencio and her daughter Erika, 8, waited in line for horseback rides at the block party at the Golden Gate Community Center. It was the mother and daughter’s first time attending a National Night Out event.

In addition to horseback rides, Golden Gate’s celebration featured pony rides for little tykes, face painting, a rock wall, bounce house, presentations by the CCSO bomb squad and Golden Gate Fire Department, hot dogs, hamburgers and lemonade.

Erika said she liked climbing the CCSO rock wall best.

“She got almost halfway up,” her mother proudly said, while displaying a picture of Erika climbing the wall on her camera phone.

Similar community celebrations played out in North Naples, East Naples, Golden Gate Estates, Immokalee and Everglades as throngs of people gathered on a humid August evening to strengthen neighborhood law enforcement-community partnerships and heighten crime and drug-prevention awareness.

Maribel Mejia and Maria Pierce, both Collier County school teachers, helped pass out CCSO informational material and food tickets at the celebration at East Naples Community Park.

Mejia said events like National Night Out are important because they help to educate parents about safety who in turn teach those values to their children.

Most of those in the crowd in East Naples were children, who were drawn to the clown, DJ, bike rodeo, pizza, and the abundance of deputies.

In North Naples, participants got to see a K-9 demonstration and explore the CCSO mobile crime scene van. Parents could get free child ID kits from the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children. The event at Lock-Up Self Storage, 1025 Piper Blvd., also featured live music, food and refreshments from several area restaurants. Red E. Fox was also on hand to educate kids about 911.

Bob Braun, regional manager for Lock-Up Self Storage, said representatives from his company’s corporate office jumped at the chance to partner with CCSO in hosting the North Naples event. The company wants to be actively involved in the communities where it does business.

Braun, who lives in the Chicago area, attended the North Naples celebration. He said he was impressed with the interaction between the deputies and the community.

“It’s obvious the Sheriff’s Office is very involved in the community to the point where everybody pretty much knows one another,” Braun said. “The turnout was an excellent reflection of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s involvement with the community.”

Under the pavilion at Immokalee Community Park, deputies served up hundreds of hamburgers donated by McDonalds and hot dogs donated by Immokalee Friendship House. Deputies also installed more than 150 bicycle lights and held drawings for four new bicycles.

Kids in Golden Gate Estates showed off Silly Bands, climbed the rock wall and got a lesson from Big Corkscrew firefighters on how to put out a fire with a water-spewing fire hose.

The celebration at the Florida Forestry Service Ranger Station at the corner of Randall Boulevard and Immokalee Road also featured free giveaways including forest green mesh recycle bags from Collier County government and hot dogs and pulled pork sandwiches.

Deputies and Everglades area residents mingled at a barbecue cookout featuring hot dogs, popsicles and cookies under a tent at the corner of Church Street and Janes Scenic Drive.

Earlier in the day residents marked a victory of sorts with the unveiling of four new Neighborhood Watch signs in the communities of Everglades City, Chokoloskee, Plantation Island and Copeland.

CCSO Crime Prevention Specialist Sue Gentry said the signs reflect CCSO’s partnership with and commitment to the Everglades community.

Click here to see an interactive map that displays photographs of the National Night Out celebrations in all six CCSO districts.