National Night Out celebrations set in Rock County communities

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Shelly Birkelo
Thursday, July 25, 2013

They are big, fun, free family events, and everybody is invited.

The 30th anniversary of National Night Out will be celebrated locally Tuesday, Aug. 6, by the Janesville Police Department in Janesville and jointly by the Rock County Sheriff's Office and Town of Beloit Police Department in the town of Beloit.

"It's a chance to meet, mingle and talk to local emergency services staff on a friendly basis," said Sgt. Doug Coulter of the Rock County Sheriff's Office.

The annual event was started 30 years ago by the National Association of Town Watch group as a way to promote police-community partnerships; to prevent crime, violence and drug abuse; and promote safety and community unity, he said.

 "It helps to show citizens we are all working together to fight crime. They can meet us and not feel so nervous," Coulter said.

Janesville Police Officer Chad Sullivan said the event is a chance to see what the police department and other emergency services are all about.

"Let us feed and entertain the family while at the same time you can meet officers, who are approachable and not scary," he said.

The approach appears to be working. Attendance has grown at both the sheriff's office and police department events.

Janesville's average National Night Out attendance is 1,500, while the sheriff's office attracted 2,500 people last year. Sullivan hopes another 500 to 1,000 people will attend this year, but he said the weather plays a big role. Coulter expects a crowd of 3,000 this year.

Those who attend will see a variety of new activities.

In Janesville, this includes:

--Taser for a Cause that will raise money for local charities KANDU Industries, the Boys & Girls Club and Salvation Army. Community volunteers have agreed to be Tased.

"It's an opportunity to give three nonprofits a chance to raise extra funds and the people paying to see someone Tased," Sullivan said.

--Live music by the Killer Kars.

--Three awards to those in the community who have helped buy bulletproof vests for the department's canine members.

--More and new food. More than 1,000 hot dogs will be added for a total of 3,000 plus sandwiches in addition to 700 pulled pork sandwiches that will be served for the first time.

--Walgreens will dress one of its employees as McGruff the Crime Dog so families can have their pictures taken for free with the mascot then pick up the pictures at the West Court Street store.

In Beloit, events include:

--A Correctional Emergency Response Team demonstration. Specially trained members, donning riot-type gear, will extract an “inmate” who is acting up from a mock jail cell.

--The sheriff's office second and newest K-9 unit dog and its handler will put on a demonstration.

--Pontoon rides on the Rock River provided by the Town of Beloit Police Department.

“Policing has grown into a community problem where we need the community's help to solve crimes,” Coulter said.

Because of National Night Out, residents feel more comfortable calling police, he said.

"We need them as much as they need us to have a safe community," he said.

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