Shelby community bonds through new National Night Out event

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published August 12, 2019

 Ciera Spratt, 2, from Rochester, pets  K-9 officer Niko with help from K-9 handler and  patrol officer Justin Goebel.

Ciera Spratt, 2, from Rochester, pets K-9 officer Niko with help from K-9 handler and patrol officer Justin Goebel.

Photo by Donna Agusti

 Leah Bryant, 9, and Jenna Rimac, 7, from Shelby  Township, get ready for a humorous photo booth picture.

Leah Bryant, 9, and Jenna Rimac, 7, from Shelby Township, get ready for a humorous photo booth picture.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — For the first time, Shelby Township hosted a National Night Out event and invited the community to meet and learn about its Police and Fire departments while having a fun time.

From 4:30 to 11 p.m. Aug. 6, residents strolled the Shelby Township municipal campus and spent time with members of the departments while learning about what they do and the tools they use to do their jobs. From police gear and K-9s to firetrucks, residents got to see it all.

National Night Out is a campaign promoting police-community partnerships. The campaign has been occurring for 36 years all over the country.

“Fighting crime is a community effort, and the first step is awareness and education,” Police Chief Robert Shelide said. “Our officers are among the best-trained and best-equipped law enforcement professionals in the state, but we hope never to have to use that training or equipment. We would much rather be proactive and create a crime-free community.”

Shelby Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis commented on the outreach event.

“Our Police Department is ahead of the curve on so many initiatives, but none are more important than the community services operations,” Stathakis said. “Chief Shelide has put together a system where there are no barriers between our officers and the men, women and families that call our township home. Because of this, we have amazing citizen-police relations, and I hope this event opens up a few more eyes to how great that relationship is.”

The event was free for the whole family and included activities for kids, K-9 demonstrations, food trucks and more.

Proceeds will support the Shelby Township Honor Guard and the 100 Club of Detroit to support families who have lost someone in the line of duty.

Children were able to get fingerprint kits and try out heavy police gear.

“The event was really nice because they had dogs here and we got a lot of cool stuff, like flashlights, bracelets and a calculator. They also taught us about (K-9) Niko, who goes with the officers and works. We got to learn what was in firetrucks and police officers’ cars. They have a lot of different officers, like patrol officers,” said Neel Tripathi, of Shelby Township.

Adults were able to tour the department’s custom drug education trailer, which identifies many types of drug devices that people might not know children own.

K-9s even put on a show of how they take down “the bad guy.” Niko gladly put on the show and loved all the pettings he received.

Justin Goebel, a K-9 officer and patrol officer for Shelby Township, said the K-9s are always a big hit at events.

“We get a lot of questions about the K-9s; everybody always loves the dogs. Anytime that they are out in interaction with the public, it’s kind of one of those things — they’re an excellent tool to engage with the community. And people always have questions around that. (If) they stay with us, what their purpose is, what their specialties are and so forth, so people really enjoy having the dogs out there,” said Goebel.

An indoor screening of Disney’s “Zootopia” followed the end of the outdoor activities. The possibility of rain pushed the show indoors.

Police Sgt. Brandon Dowty said it was a great opportunity to get to know the community and for the community to get to know them in return.

“It’s awesome because we get to have those face-to-face interactions with the public, and they get to learn about how we operate,” said Dowty.

Chelsea Oland, the township’s deputy supervisor, said the weather may have put a damper on Shelby Township’s National Night Out, but nothing could suppress the grins and laughs, as the kids were still able to meet first responders.

“It was really wonderful seeing the community, children and adults alike, interacting with our officers and firefighters. It’s not every day that you can watch a K-9 demonstration and climb through a police cruiser or a fire engine. I know that there is an outpouring of support in our township for these men and women, so it means a lot to be able to show them the support physically,” Oland said.

For more information on National Night Out, visit www.natw.org.

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