It isn't often one hears the sounds of emergency sirens intermingled with the laughter of children, but Tuesday evening was a pleasant exception.
The Minot Police Department teamed up with community partners and fellow public service agencies to host its annual National Night Out event. The night was devised to encourage stronger relationships between neighbors and local law enforcement, in order to heighten crime-prevention awareness.
From 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Optimist Soccer Complex, thousands of Minot families lined up for hot dogs and nachos provided by Target or ice cream bars from Minot Area Credit Unions, perusing any of the specialty equipment and vehicles on display, such as the city's armored SWAT BearCat or the Trinity NorthStar Criticare helicopter. Kids and adults alike amused themselves at games of skill and chance, got their faces painted, or learned a practical thing or two at a number of informational booths. The Fraternal Order of Police local even sponsored a dunking booth.
One of the Minot Police Department’s two K-9 units, “Piko” brings down a padded Air Force Tech. Sgt Steve Kaun after he demonstrated an otherwise ill-advised escape attempt for onlookers, at Tuesday evening’s National Night Out at the Optimist Soccer Complex. The evening featured a number of games, educational displays, free refreshments and other activities, held to acquaint residents with the various law enforcement and emergency service personnel serving the community.
"We have a lot of fun with it," said Sgt. Margie Zietz, of the MPD crime prevention unit. Zietz orchestrated the event, which is now the community's fourth in a row. Last year's event drew around 1,500 residents. The year before, a flood-related cancellation of the State Fair saw more than 3,000 carnival-starved Minoters crowd the Target parking lot for the occasion.
Target Corporation is a nationwide sponsor of the Night Out, which since 1984 has organized similar gatherings in local communities for the purpose of promoting public involvement in crime prevention activities and police-community partnerships. This year, 37 million people in 15,000 communities are expected to participate.
Zietz explained that the event also lets residents "meet the people that are keeping them safe," from police officers and firefighters to paramedics and utilities providers such as SRT.
"It's unreal that we get these sponsors to step up," she added, a coalition of businesses, financial institutions, health providers, Minot Park District, local clubs and churches. "Everybody provides some kind of service."
Also among the crowd were members of Exploring, Boy Scouts of America subsidiary Learning for Life's career education program aimed at putting young people aged 14 to 20 into various career fields. Officer Jared Foley explained that the MPD started its own branch of the program a year ago, so far involving 13 high school and two college students interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement in the responsibilities of that field.
"We explore the field of law enforcement," said Foley, who is a Minot Explorer post adviser. The program fosters a sense of community service in participants while setting them to specific tasks and training programs. "Anybody can do it," he added, with information available at the station or via email at (firstname.lastname@example.org).