Local law enforcement invites community to National Night Out


It's a night not only to fight back against crime, but to get to know those who do it on a daily basis.

National Night Out will be celebrated throughout Valencia County, and the nation, on Tuesday, Aug. 6. The event, which began in 1982, now involves more than 37 million people and 15,000 communities from all over the United States.

National Night Out is a celebration across America with various events and activities including, block parties, cookouts, rallies and marches, all in an effort to heighten awareness and enhance community relations.

And this year is no different. Law enforcement agencies across Valencia County are once again participating in National Night Out.

Belen's National Night Out will be from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Heart of Belen Plaza on Main Street and Becker Avenue.

Belen Police Chief Dan Robb said this year's event will be similar to those in the past, with free hot dogs and hamburgers, beverages and entertainment. Officers also will give away school supplies, including backpacks, to local children, along with other fun stuff such as a variety of balls and electronics.

There will also be activities for the children, such as the dunk tank, bungee basketball, a joist pit and a dalmatian bouncy house for the younger children.

"It's important to get out for the officers to meet the community, and for the community to meet the officers, to get the community better," Robb said. "The whole purpose is to turn out and let people know that we're not scared of the criminal element. That's a very important element.

"Everyone is welcome to come out and I hope to see the entire community out there," the police chief said.

The Valencia County Sheriff's Office event will be from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Meadow Lake Community Center. There will be free food, door prizes and live music by Los Alegres de Belen.

Undersheriff Linda Corriz-Barreras said because the sheriff's department serves the entire county, they want to make sure that everyone in the county can attend. Last year, the sheriff department's NNO event was at the county courthouse. She said by moving it around every year, more people from the outlying areas of the county are better served.

"We need to be out making contact with the people we serve," Sheriff Louis Burkhard said. "Two years ago, we did it in Rio Communities, so we'll move that in different locations in the county every year.

"The purpose of this is to develop relationships between law enforcement and the community," he said. "The public will have a chance to talk about issues they're having."

Not only will the sheriff's office be offering free food, but they will be handing out free school supplies for children. Corriz-Barreras said she has been working with local businesses who are donating food, school supplies and other items for the annual event.

Along with the sheriff's department, other local and state agencies will be available and will be handing out information, including Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Valencia County Fire Department, YDI, New Mexico State Police, RCA, Valencia County Animal Shelter and New Mexico National Guard.

"It's important because we want to be in touch with the community we serve, and it gives families the opportunity to get to know a little bit about what we do. We also talk about issues in the community they have and that we can work together to solve," Burkhard said. "We've been able to establish a lot of Neighborhood Watch groups, so that's catching on, and it's been very beneficial to communities."

The Los Lunas Police Department will be holding its own National Night Out event from 5 to 8 p.m. at Daniel Fernandez Memorial Park on N.M. 314. Treena Saavedra, of the department's support services, said there will be free hot dogs and hamburgers, which will be cooked by Chief Roy Melnick and Deputy Chief David Gurule.

"It's a night for the community to come out and learn about crime prevention," Saavedra said. "It's all free to the community. We've been working on getting donations from the community to give school supplies to school-age children."

Saavedra said every child eligible to receive the supplies will receive everything from pencils to paper and from glue to scissors.

"It will be a good start for them," said Los Lunas Police Lt. Joe Sanchez.

Families also will be entertained by local bands, including Redeemed, which Sanchez says will play classic rock and oldies. Other attractions at the Los Lunas event include jumpers from Space Walk of Albuquerque, a rappelling demonstration from the roof of the building, and a rock climbing wall courtesy of the New Mexico National Guard.

TNT Boxing and the department's own K-9 officer, Ricky, also will be holding respective demonstrations. Sanchez said Laguna Police Department will also have its own tracking dog doing demonstrations.

"We're thinking this year will be bigger and better than last year," Sanchez said. "This is about getting people out and associate with each other, and get to know the members of the police department."

"It's a family-friendly event," Saavedra said. "We invite everyone to come out."

Agencies such as YDI, UNM-VC Wellness and Fitness, the district attorney's office and others will be there handing out information.

While the Bosque Farms Police Department won't have a National Night Out event on Aug. 6, officers will be out in full force at the Bosque Farms Community Fair, scheduled from Friday, Aug. 2, to Sunday, Aug. 4. Bosque Farms Police Chief Greg Jones said officers will be at the fair to meet and greet members of the community.

-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.