I am the product of law enforcement.
My mother was a drug interdiction officer and my father a sheriff's deputy. I was raised under a close eye and never allowed to get too far from home. There was no wandering across highways for me, or even going from our neighborhood to the other side of town, unless I was escorted.
When I was young – seven years old, at most – we lived in a very small town. Tragedy struck and a young person from a neighboring town was abducted, assaulted, violated, mutilated and found days later, left for dead. This was an eye-opener for many people.
When I was 10 years old National Night Out was introduced. The idea was to bring everyone in the community the same awareness my parents – as police officers – and many in our community already had; and to educate communities on Neighborhood Watch programs.
Over the years, National Night out has evolved and I have been involved in many National Night Out events. National Night Out is in August for the rest of the country, but here in Texas – where it's hot as blazes – we celebrate the event in October.
Here in Gonzales we are celebrating our second "National Night Out" tonight, but I have a problem with the way it is being celebrated. First, National Night Out is a community-wide event. The event should not be funded by or celebrated to the benefit of few, but rather should be funded and celebrated by many.
The event kicking off in Gonzales tonight is at Thrive HealthPlex. That’s a problem being that the location isn’t central, nor is it easily accessible to all of the community. It is across a major highway from many neighborhoods. It is being advertised by a business, to bring our community to a business, to celebrate community awareness.
Gonzales has lots of well-maintained parks, so why are our kids crossing the highway to learn about safety and why are we gathering as a community at a business?
In Moulton, just 20 miles away and one tenth the population, Police Chief Mark Pritchard puts on a National Night out second to none. Through the generous donations of multiple area businesses, and some personal donations, Pritchard goes all out for his community. Law enforcement agencies and first responders come from all over the region and participate in the event. There is a parade of patrol cars, emergency response vehicles, old-timey fire trucks and even police-themed sports cars. The parade snakes through town and ends at the community park, where the vehicles are lined up for children to explore.
Once most of the community (300-400 people) has gathered at the park, AirLife lands (7:30 p.m.), TxDOT puts on seatbelt and ejection simulations, K-9 officers show their dogs, kids get fingerprinted, picture I.D.s are made, and questions are answered.
In Moulton, all of this happens on a $5,000 budget and on the backdrop of live music, and a carnival-like atmosphere. There are bounce houses, inflatable basketball courts, cotton candy, snow cones, dunking booths, games and much more. One local business even feeds the entire town hotdogs and sausage wraps.
Gonzales could have a National Night out just as successful as Moulton's event. A National Night Out that is accessible.
Suggestions: Have the event spearheaded by our police department and volunteers, not a business. Our police department could meet with the mayor and council and discuss having the event centrally, or in each district. Research could be done about what National Night Out is – and what Gonzales wants to achieve with the event.