A "community block party" was staged outside the Ceres Community Center for the Tuesday, Aug. 5 National Night Out celebration in an effort to reduce local crime.
The evening featured information booths, free food, fun activities, displays of police vehicles and a canine attack demonstration at the Ceres Community Center.
National Night Out is held annually in most cities to focus on community crime prevention.
Magnolia Street was closed for the event so that the public could check out the myriad of police vehicles parked next to the Ceres 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.
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 hot dogs also helped draw the public - including all members of the City Council - to the event. Councilwoman Linda Ryno helped serve up nachos with beans donated by La Cascada Mexican Restaurant. Her husband, retired Sgt. Sam Ryno, barbecued hot dogs. A short distance away, Channce Condit handed out popsicles donated by state Assemblyman Adam Gray, who is married to his aunt.
Inside the Community Center, the small assembly room was filled with booths by various community organizations, including the United Way, El Concilio, Sierra Vista Children's Center, Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children, and the Children's Crisis Center. Their purpose was helping stress safety in some aspect of life.
Ceres resident Don Cool helped man the Neighborhood Watch booth. He passed out information to help residents ward off crime.
"Neighborhood Watch is not a cure all," said Cool. "If you can afford it, get a dog. Three years ago I got a big German Shepherd and stuff stopped disappearing. Before that I had been burglarized seven times in six years."
One of the flyers contained a number of good tips to help prevent residential burglaries, including:
• Make your home look occupied and make it difficult to break into;
• Leave lights on when you go out or set automatic timers during extended absences;
• Always lock doors and windows and the garage;
• Report all suspicious people to police;
• Install an alarm system or security cameras that can be viewed from smart phone apps.
Residents who would like to get a Neighborhood Watch set up in their area should contact David McCann at 538-5624 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The presence of police canine Zeus drew a lot of interest. His handler, Officer Joe Wren explained that Zeus has healed the "best as he's going to get" following his injury.
"He'll retire at the end of the month," said Wren.
The dog will be Wren's pet while the department adds a new dog to be handled by Officer Kiashira Ruiz. She leaves this week for a five-week training in Reno.
Zeus leaves a good legacy for his fellow canines to follow. He is estimated to have assisted in over 200 surrenders to officers merely by his presence.
"Anytime the dog has been on scene," said Wren, "no officers have been injured, no civilians have been injured. It's just been a suspect who refuses to give up. And if you think about it, the bite is nasty and it hurts but what are the alternatives. It's like the guy on El Camino with the shovel. My only option would have been to shoot that guy."
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.