MOUNT VERNON — Hundreds of people came together Tuesday evening at the inaugural National Night Out event in Knox County.
Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Selby, who coordinated the event held at the Mount Vernon High School football stadium, said he was encouraged by the success of the event.
Officers from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Mount Vernon Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Danville Police Department and Fredericktown Police Department held demonstrations and met with members of the public.
The National Night Out, now in its 26th year, is celebrated in communities across the country as a way to build stronger neighborhoods and communities in order to prevent crime.
Selby explained that neighbors who strengthen relationships with each other are more likely to look out for one another’s safety, property and well-being.
“In this day and age it helps to know your neighbor,” said Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis, who talked with several members of the community during the event. “We need to do a better job of knowing who’s in our neighborhood so we know who we can help and who can help us. This is a good thing.”
Several first responders had the chance to get to know members of the communities which they serve. Seven-year-old Trey Davidson of Mount Vernon tried on the heavy protective armor worn by members of the MVPD Emergency Service Unit with the help of ESU officer Brian Weiser. Davidson said the helmet and bulletproof shield he tried on were “really cool.”
He said he was also looking forward to watching the police dog demonstration given by Danville Police Sgt. Tom Looney and his canine partner Lasko.
The 2 1/2-year-old German shepherd was one of the most popular law enforcement participants during the evening. As Looney gave commands, Lasko showed off his drug sniffing and apprehension skills.
After an all business demonstration of his bad-guy catching skills with enthusiasm, many of the children in the audience came forward to get to know Lasko better as he mellowed back into an irresistible furry friend.
“He was raised with kids from a puppy, so he’s great around kids,” explained Looney. “He’s a good dog to have for stuff like this.”
Many of the officers present were in uniform, but even more came in street clothes. Some of the officers explained that younger children who may be apprehensive of a large person in uniform, may feel more comfortable getting to know a police officer who was dressed in casual clothes, in the company of the officer’s own children.
KCSO Sgt. Gary Rohler, who attended the event with his wife, Laura, and their 4-year-old twins, Madison and Hudson, said he was looking forward to getting to know members of the public during the evening.
“It’s nice if the community can come together,” Rohler said.
Thirteen-year-old Austin Stage of Mount Vernon enjoyed getting to see and touch some of the law enforcement equipment on display in the MVPD ESU vehicle, including a battering ram and bulletproof shield.
“Sweet,” Austin said of the ESU specialized vehicle’s contents. “I got to pick up the ram and the shield, which I’ve only seen before on TV.”
Some of the officers took the opportunity to educate community members about safety issues during the event.
OSHP Trooper Todd Carpenter brought a display and materials with information on topics such as the life risking dangers of drinking and driving, and the importance of seat belt usage.
Every law enforcement agency in the county participated in the event.
“It’s especially encouraging for law enforcement to see all of the agencies involved because we’re all involved for the same effort,” said MVPD Administrative Sgt. Mark Perkins.
The Knox County Emergency Management Agency and Knox County Chapter of the American Red Cross also had their response vehicles and staff members at the event to talk with people.
Knox County Citizen Corps volunteers assisted with everything from preparing food to helping with parking during the event. The Mount Vernon Fire Department also brought trucks, firefighters and paramedics.
Selby said the event was made successful by the involvement of the public, the law enforcement agencies that helped with the event, and the businesses that donated door prizes and resources for the celebration.
A custom/classic car show drew over 20 entries, even as stormy skies threatened but never rained on the event. Car show exhibitor Fred Mohn of Mount Vernon said he would be back next year, and thought the show would grow as word spread.
Knox County Sheriff David Barber said he was proud so many of his officers came out to support the event, even though none of them were compensated for their time during the evening.
“This First Annual National Night Out is an example of how not only the sheriff’s office but all of the first responders, including firefighters, EMS and law enforcement, not only work together, but it demonstrates their commitment to the citizens they protect and serve,” Barber said.
The event featured free food, face painting for children, a dunk tank and bouncy castle, games.