News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

August 3, 2011

VIDEO: National Night Out acquaints community with law enforcement agencies

TERRE HAUTE — A pink sunset over the Wabash River helped draw to a close another busy and successful National Night Out in Fairbanks Park on Tuesday night.

All afternoon and into the evening, thousands of area residents poured through the park moving from event to event and booth to booth. All activities were free of charge. Food, drinks and popsicle also were available without charge from area organizations.

“My favorite thing was the water slide,” said Sierra Bemis, 6, of Terre Haute, who was at the National Night Out with her parents and younger brother, Gabriel. Sierra proudly showed off the many books she received. She also received school supplies, a balloon, gum and many other items.

“It’s a family-fun environment,” said Sierra’s mother, Jessica Bemis.

National Night Out, an event designed in part to promote better relations between law enforcement officials and the public, takes place every year. It is also designed to promote involvement in crime prevention and drug-free activities and promote neighborhood camaraderie, according to the National Association of Town Watch, which originated National Night Out in 1984.

Despite extremely hot temperatures, last year’s National Night Out set a record for attendance, said John Plasse, chief of the Terre Haute Police Department. He was hopeful that this year’s crowd would set a new record.

In addition to law enforcement organizations, several other agencies and groups filled the park with educational and fun activities aimed at children. The Vigo County Health Department had several booths with games and other activities, such as face painting. The Health Department also provided free lead testing, dental and school supplies and kettle corn. The Terre Haute Parks and Recreation Department helped kids make coffee filter “butterflies” and the Wabash Valley Amateur Radio Association provided communication services for the entire event.

At the other end of the park, the Terre Haute Police Department sponsored a 24-foot rock climbing wall for kids. Meanwhile, the Terre Haute Fire Department gave away free kid-sized firefighter helmets, which many kids filled with water to pour on their heads as relief from the 90-degree heat.

“It’s not as hot as last year,” said Marlin Hill, president of the Terre Haute NAACP Youth Council, which was giving out free Pepsi products. “It’s nice to see everyone out supporting the community,” he said.

Meanwhile, many people at the National Night Out were lining up to buy window decals, bumper stickers and bracelets in honor of Officer Brent Long of the Terre Haute Police Department, who was killed in the line of duty on July 11.

“It’s been steady,” said Dan Armentrout of the THPD, who was organizing the sale. All proceeds from the sales will benefit the Long family and assist in the construction of a permanent memorial to Long.

In another area of the park, police officers were allowing children to drive golf carts through a small version of an Emergency Vehicle Operations training course. Such courses are a normal part of training for police officers, said Mike Ellerman of the THPD.

Other organizations represented at National Night Out included Union Hospital, the Vigo County School Corporation, Mental Health America, Duke Energy, Vectren, Indiana American Water, First Financial Bank, the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency, Catholic Charities, the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, the Terre Haute Human Relations Commission, the Disabilities Awareness Work Group, Ivy Tech Community College, Harrison College and more.

“It’s not just police agencies,” Chief Plasse said. “We couldn’t do this by ourselves. This speaks volumes for our community.”

Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (812) 231-4232 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (812) 231-4232      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (812) 231-4232      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (812) 231-4232      end_of_the_skype_highlighting      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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