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Crime focus of National Night Out
Ceres neighbors connect to fight crime
Ceres Police Department canine officer Joe Wren and his dog Zeus were introduced to the community at the National Night Out event held at the Ceres Community Center on Tuesday, Aug. 6. Other emergency vehicles were on display on Magnolia Street outside the center. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Information booths, fun activities, displays of police vehicles and a canine attack demonstration were all part of the National Night Out event staged on Tuesday, Aug. 6 at the Ceres Community Center.

National Night Out is held annually in most cities to focus on community crime prevention. Ceres has not staged an event for the past two years due to budget constraints. This year there was a push to do an event for the 30th anniversary of National Night Out, relying on volunteers to help out.

Magnolia Street was closed for the event so that the public could check out the myriad of police vehicles parked next to the Community Center. They included the new Traffic Enforcement trailer used in DUI checkpoints. It was awarded by the state Office of Traffic Safety through a grant since Ceres Police Department spearheaded this year's "Avoid the 12" DUI enforcement campaign.

The Ceres Police SWAT vehicle, called the Bear, was displayed. It was manned by Sgt. Trenton Johnson and officer Hector Pulido, the newest SWAT team member who served an Army tour of duty in Iraq in 2005 and 2006 and Afghanistan from 2007 to 2009. Pulido was hired as a Ceres police officer in 2010. Both officers showed and explained the role of various pieces of body armor.
Other vehicles displayed were a Ceres fire engine, the code enforcement trailer, the Abandoned Vehicle Abatement Unit vehicle, the Police Mobile Command Post and a traffic motorcycle.

The donation of popcorn, frozen yogurt and 1,000 hot dogs also helped draw the public to the event.

Inside the Community Center, an entire room was filled with booths by various community organizations, including the Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children, Bureau of Security & Investigative Services, California Rural Legal Assistance, the Latino Community Roundtable and the Children's Crisis Center. Their purpose was helping stress safety in some aspect of life.

Dr. Daniel Lucky provided free health screenings as part of the NAACP /Ceres Police Stop Gap Health Services.

The city offered information on Neighborhood Watch and accepted volunteer program applications. Firefighters took sign-ups for home smoke detector checks while officers provided information on how to prevent car thefts and gang activity. The California Highway Patrol provided car seat installation tips.

A popular booth was that of Stanislaus County Animal Services which had pets on hand for adoption.

The presence of police canine Zeus drew a lot of interest. His handler, Officer Joe Wren explained that the Ceres Police canine program has been expanded from two to four and that all dogs are now trained to sniff out drugs.

"The agency recognizes if no new bodies are going to be added that we need to get more resources," said Wren. "The dogs help us do more than we could before."

The added dogs mean that 20 hours out of 24 are covered by canines.

Ceres is often called by the Sheriff's Department to assist with canines as well as Modesto, which only has five dogs for the whole city. Turlock often calls on Ceres for canine services because it has no canines.

Zeus is routinely used to track down suspects, sniff out drugs from a car or house or bite suspects who refuse to surrender.

The night included a demonstration of Zeus who bit at the protective suit wore by Sgt. Danny Vierra.