Most days out of the year, an encounter with the police department means something bad has happened.
Whether you get a speeding ticket or you’ve been burglarized, the presence of a police officer means you’re just not having a good day, said Seal Beach Police Sgt. Ron Lavelle.
But nothing erases negative associations like free food and a bounce house. On Tuesday, hundreds of children, families and community groups joined the Seal Beach Police Department for the annual block party known as National Night Out.
Seal Beach participated in the national event for the fifth year in a row Tuesday, closing off Ocean Avenue at Main Street to bring the community together with the police department for a night of fun.
gave away 800 free hot dogs and drinks while kids played on a bounce house, steered a fire truck and climbed aboard the latest U.S. Navy Security Patrol boat.
National Night Out was started 28 years ago to give communities an opportunity to take back parts of their neighborhood that were overridden with crime at least for one night, Lavelle said.
In a safe community such as Seal Beach, the event has evolved to give residents a chance to interact with police.
“It’s a chance for us to find out what kind of issues are affecting the neighborhood and spread some good will,” said Lavelle. “Sometimes we get so caught up in solving crime, it can be helpful for us to stop and listen to the community about the quality of life issues that affect them like parking in Old Town or transients in the area.”
The event is sometimes held at Heather Park, said Todd De Voe, the Emergency Services Coordinator for the West Orange County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
Along with CERT, the Orange County Fire Authority and the U.S. Navy were on hand along with the nonprofit Seal Beach Lions Club and Save Our Beach.
Next to the bounce house and free food, the most popular draw was the U.S. Navy Security Patrol boat. Parked on Ocean Avenue, children had a chance to climb aboard and even touch the boat’s M2 40 Machine Gun.
The boat is only a few weeks old, said Master At Arms Chief Travis Mack.
“We had about 30 kids all over it like ants on a lollipop,” said Mack.
One 9-year-old boy, in particular, came dressed in digitals (fatigues), and he knows about weapons, and he does push-ups because he wants to be a Navy Seal like his uncle, said Mack.
“We have a visible presence in the community, and it’s events like this that reinforces that we are part of the community,” added Mack.