Law Enforcement builds bridges with community

An El Centro Fireman passes out badge stickers to children at the El Centro PAL National Night Out on Tuesday night.
An El Centro Fireman passes out badge stickers to children at the El Centro PAL National Night Out on Tuesday night.

EL CENTRO — The El Centro PAL celebrated their 6th annual National Night Out community event Tuesday night at Carlos Aguilar Park.

“The National Night Out is a nation-wide event for communities throughout the United States,” explained Ed Preciado, executive director of El Centro PAL. “The overall goal is to showcase law enforcement and first responders to the community to create closer bonds. Also, this year we brought out different businesses. Our goal is for people to understand and know the different services that they provide throughout the county, city, state, and federal level.”

“We want kids to know their law enforcement because they have bad ideas of cops and Border Patrol,” said Tony Gutierrez, organizer of the event. “They think they’re bad people out to get them. This is a way for them to interact with them and show them they’re not those types of people.”

The 2016 National Night Out was free where guests could enjoy free food and drinks and meet various law enforcement and first responders. The City of El Centro Fire Department, U.S. Border Patrol, El Centro Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Gold Cross Paramedic, and Imperial County Sheriff’s Office were all present, actively engaging and speaking with residents who stopped by their booth. Law enforcement officers and first responders also handed out free badge stickers and coloring books.

“I think it brought the community closer together,” said Preciado. “I think we’re building those bonds. This is the sixth year we’ve done this and attendance is better this year. We move throughout the city to different parks every year. We’ve had it at places such as McGee Park and Stark Field. We’re trying to showcase law enforcement and first responders throughout the city so we’ll be moving to a different part of town next year.”

Emergency response vehicles such as a Sheriff patrol boat, fire truck, SWAT armored vehicle, and ambulance emergency response cars were on display for children to step on and view how they function. A live demonstration by an El Centro Police K-9 unit showed guests how a search dog operates during a drug search.

Along with local law enforcement and first responders, local businesses such as Clincas de Pueblo, Calexico Neighborhood Housing, and Planned Parenthood had informational booths to explain their services. The local Target played a major role in the organization with many employees manning their booth.

“What Target does is we provide free hot dogs, chips, and water,” said Pearl Arostigui, a member of the Target store team. “We also provide kids school supplies that we give out. We purchase about two hundred dollars worth of different prizes, so that when kids come and play, we give those out to them. We work together with the local enforcement to have them come and help out. The more that we can sponsor, the more members come out. Target has participated every year.”

The event was held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and concluded with a new sense of unity between law enforcement, first responders, and the local community.

“Everything turned out tonight with a huge success,” commented Preciado.

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