WESLEY CHAPEL –Distant thunder and a light drizzle wasn’t enough to keep more than 100 locals from Wesley Chapel’s third annual National Night Out.
The event, Tuesday night, Aug. 7, was aimed at educating the public and promoting community safety. Residents and law enforcement officers gathered in the parking lot of the Wesley Chapel Target, a sponsor of the event, on Highway 84 for a plethora of family activities that included face painting, karate demonstrations and live music.
Law enforcement officers, fire fighters, McGruff the Crime Dog and the Chick-fil-A cow made special appearances. Kids got to check out the fire engines and police cars while the Wesley Chapel Youth Council sold hot dogs as a fundraiser and local vendors sold ice cream and Italian ice.
But the main aspect of the event was its emphasis on safety. Pamphlets with safety information were handed out, Wesley Chapel Family Medicine provided car seat demonstrations and Wesley Chapel’s contract deputy, A.J. Mainero, spoke to the public about community safety. In addition, the cadets from the Explorers Post 242 were on hand, conducting fingerprinting for Ident-A-Kid child ID kits.
Weddington resident Aaron Longoria was one of many parents who took their kids to the fingerprinting station to have child ID kits made. Longoria believes the ID kits are a wonderful way to ensure the safety of his sons, ages 2 and 7, in the event of an emergency.
“We came out to get the child ID packets for the kids,” Longoria said. “We also wanted to learn a little more about safety and be educated, and have a good time.”
For the past three years, the village safety committee has organized the National Night Out event, sponsored by Target. Other sponsors, such as Harris Teeter and Market Express, pitched in to donate items like water bottles and plates. “Everybody’s been very generous this year, which is nice to hear when you work on a $0 budget,” Tessie Morris, the village safety committee chairperson, said.
Morris, along with the rest of the safety committee and council member Becky Plyler, worked to promote the event throughout the community to get as many people as possible to come out, learn about safety and enjoy the evening.
“Our main emphasis was showing residents and the community how to use safety to their benefit,” Morris said. “Crime, safety and community watch are what we want to promote through National Night Out because we want to feel safe.”
Mayor Pro Tem Kim Ormiston feels National Night Out is a vital part of what the village does for the Wesley Chapel residents and the surrounding community. “It’s definitely been successful. People are more aware of safety and the community watch program,” Ormiston said. “(National Night Out) is definitely an event that I’d like to see going on every year.”
For Deputy Mainero, National Night Out is about uniting the community and law enforcement officers in an effort to promote safety and maintain the security of the community.
“I think the most important part about National Night Out is it brings the public together to talk about safety, especially with law enforcement,” Mainero said. “We get to talk to them, they get to talk to us. It brings both sides together, like a partnership.”
Maintaining security: what you can do to stay safe in your community
Deputy A.J. Mainero recently spoke with Union County Weekly to give some tips about steps community members should take to stay safe. According to Mainero, Wesley Chapel’s contract deputy, the main issues in the Wesley Chapel area are car break-ins and home break-ins. The village averages about one home break-in and two car break-ins a month, he said, but the numbers tend to rise a little around Christmas and other holidays when teenagers are out of school. Other occasional incidents include arguments and, more rarely, assault. But other areas in Union County have a crime rate that’s considerably higher. No matter where you live, Mainero says the following steps are vital in protecting the safety of yourself, your family and your property.
Personal Safety Tips:
• Keep your doors locked. Whether it’s your house or your vehicle, locking your doors is the first step in preventing theft and break-ins. “I suggest dead bolt locks on your home doors,” Mainero said.
• Don’t leave valuables in your vehicle. “If (thieves) see them, they’ll break the window or pop a door and take a GPS or something else.”
• Get a security system. A warning sign or light can be a deterent for criminals. “In most break-ins, the house is not alarmed.” If you have an alarm, why not use it?
• Trim your hedges. High shrubbery and overgrown vegetation are perfect cover for criminals.
• Call in any suspicious activity. “If there are any people walking around or cars that are unusual, call 911. Good description lets us know if it’s a reasonable suspicion.”
• Have neighbors watch your house when you’re out of town.
• Start a community watch group in your neighborhood. “This is a great thing for subdivisions to do.”
Teen Safety Tips:
• Make sure you stay in groups. Don’t go out alone.
• Parents, know where your kids are. “It’s about accountability, making sure you know where they are. Don’t let them walk around by themselves at night.”
• Know what your teens are up to. Check their cell phones and computers and challenge them to make wise choices. “Keep an eye on what your teenagers are doing.”
Child Safety Tips:
• Stay with your children at all times. “Keep an eye on them, make sure they’re not by themselves and in dangerous situations.”
• Get a child ID kit. “If the child’s abducted, that’s one thing you can have (that’s) a helpful thing.”
• Encourage bicycle safety. Make them wear a helmet. No riding at night or by themselves.
• Teach them about 911. Children should know how to handle an emergency.
• Warn them about strangers. Tell them not to talk with people they don’t know.
Josh Whitener, firstname.lastname@example.org