National Night Out events promote safety, crime prevention while enhancing community relations

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

JANESVILLE—Two Janesville firefighters and two Janesville police officers running in full firefighting and SWAT gear will be among those in The Run Against Crime during National Night Out on Tuesday.

"We--police and fire--work a lot together but have two different jobs with two different responsibilities when we respond somewhere, but we are still emergency responders," said officer Chad Sullivan, event organizer.

"Running together shows we have a lot of equipment to carry around, that we can cooperate and have fun together," he said.

When dressed in full SWAT gear--a ballistic vest and helmet, gas mask, gun and holster, medical pouch and noise flash distraction devices--officer Shane Punzel and Detective Steve Williams weigh a total of 474 pounds.

Janesville firefighters Chad Hansen and Tim Hopkins and all of their equipment--air tanks, turnout gear, helmets, safety goggles, door chock and flashlight--tip the scale at 504.5 pounds.

Punzel, a long-distance runner, said he got involved to energize others into signing up for the run and to give people a reason to show up and watch.

"The money--100 percent of the run registration fee--goes to Janesville Area CrimeStoppers. People can come cheer us on or make a donation, which will make the event even more extraordinary," he said.

"Maybe it'll be a catalyst of friendly competition between the two departments as time goes on," Punzel said.

Hansen, a recreational runner, admitted to “liking the competitive appeal" of the race “and raising money for a good cause.”

The Janesville event will be outside the Janesville Police Department at Wall and Jackson streets.

The Rock County Sheriff's Office is hosting an event in Evansville at Lake Leota Park.

"It's an opportunity for our police officers to interact with the community in a positive way on a fun night," Sullivan said.

Sgt. Doug Coulter of the sheriff's office agreed.

"It's a way for us to get out in the community and a chance for people to meet us and see something we do," Coulter said. "It's getting a chance to know your deputies rather than see us drive by in a squad car. The whole idea is to build better relationships with each other."

Janesville will display and implement the BearCat armored truck in its SWAT demonstration, Sullivan said.

The sheriff's office event for the first time will feature swimming in the municipal pool, Cops and Bobbers fishing, SWAT demonstrations plus the state Department of Transportation Rider Education Facility motorcycle simulator.

In Janesville, the number of free hotdogs has been doubled from 1,500 to 3,000 and the number of community booths have doubled to a total of 45, Sullivan said.

Coulter said the sheriff's office will have more food, too, and the number of vendors has grown to 40.

The best part, Sullivan said, is that everything is free.

Coulter agreed: "How many times can you come out to a free event, get fed, get raffles and entertainment?"

"You don't very often," he said.

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