VERDE VALLEY - With community and police relations dominating the headlines, National Night Out seeks to encourage partnerships by providing food, fellowship, and demonstrations the evening of Aug. 2 (Oct. 4 in Cottonwood).
"I've been involved with National Night Out since day-one over 30 years ago," said James Iacovacci, a former Flint Township, MI police lieutenant and current partner in Law Enforcement Creations sculptures in Cornville. "It has become a really good event to talk one-on-one with police officers. Those interested in a law enforcement career can see what direction they should take in school and what avenues are open to them."
National Night Out got its start on a Boston street corner in 1985 as a way for people to take back their neighborhoods from criminal activity. Residents gathered in the streets, turning on their house and porch lights and taking control of the events in their community, if only for one night. The idea caught-on nationwide, with one summer evening annually dedicated to the cause.
Cottonwood's involvement with National Night Out began when Iacovacci met former Cottonwood Police Chief Jody Fanning at the FBI National Academy in 1999. Fanning liked what he heard, so when Iacovacci relocated to Arizona in 2008, the two launched the National Night Out program in Cottonwood.
Once Fanning passed the baton to current Chief of Police Stephen Gesell, the event received another boost by joining a pilot program aimed at southern states.
"Chief Gesell asked, 'Why not do it at a cooler time of year?'" said Iacovacci. "It just so happened that the warmer states like Texas, and New Mexico thought it might be better if the event was changed to Oct. 4, so he said, 'Let's try it.'"
Advantages of moving the date include cooler temperatures as well as improving student participation and school partnership opportunities. Another trend is the participation of related services such as child care centers and health organizations. This year's event will take place Oct. 4 at Cottonwood Kids' Park between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
"We had 350 people the first year. This year, we are expecting 2,000 people to participate," Iacovacci said.
When the Town of Camp Verde closes Main St. to vehicles between 1st and Head at 4 p.m. Aug. 2, that's the signal that National Night Out has begun.
"Our hope is to be able to strengthen our relationship with the community and provide the community the opportunity to openly communicate with members of CVMO," said Deputy Dustin Richardson. "One of the positive impacts of National Night Out is the opportunity for us to talk to individuals on a positive note who we may have arrested or had contact with previously. The positive interaction with children is extremely important as it may change or improve their perception of law enforcement for a life time."
Last year, between 400 and 500 people attended the event in Camp Verde.
"A lot of the questions were about how the police department functions, specifically questions pertaining to the K-9 unit and SWAT. Search and Rescue, as well as Guardian Air, also fielded questions," said Richardson. "We received a lot of 'Thank you's for our service."
Clarkdale and Jerome
Teaming-up at Clarkdale Town Park on Aug. 2 between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. will be the Clarkdale and Jerome Police Departments.
According to Clarkdale Police Sgt. Nicole Florisi, "Come out and meet your local police officers and neighbors and join us for free food, soda, and ice cream. Plenty of fun activities are planned, including a dunk tank, tug of war, 3-legged races, burlap bag races, and face painting."
Also on hand will be officers from the Jerome Police Department.
"We partner with Clarkdale," said Sgt. Russell San Felice, Jerome Police Department. "We work together and our kids go to the same community schools."
Highlights of Jerome's participation in the event include display of the old marshal's car, a dunk tank and a rope rescue demonstration, as "our police have cross trained with the fire department," he said.
"We look forward to a decent crowd," said San Felice.
National Night Out
Where: Main Street between 1st St. and Head St. as well as parking lot. (Note: This section of Main St. will be closed at 4 p.m.).
When: Tuesday, Aug. 2 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
What: Free hot dogs, hamburgers and refreshments. Displayed will be an armored vehicle, police motorcycle, police car, DUI trailer, police bicycle, Animal Control truck, CSI trailer and radar trailer.
Contact: Darby Martin 928-554-8308.
Where: Cottonwood Kids' Park, 12th St. and Cherry St.
When: Oct. 4 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
What: Free hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, pop, water, ice cream and snow cones. Activities, demonstrations and information from the Cottonwood Fire Department, Yavapai County Health Department, MAT Force and others.
Contact: Sgt. Monica Kuhlt 928-634-4246 or James Iacovacci 928-202-8120.
Clarkdale and Jerome
Where: Clarkdale Town Park, 1001 Main St.
When: Tuesday, Aug. 2 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
What: Free food, soda and ice cream. Activities include a dunk tank, tug-of-war, 3-legged races, burlap bag races, and face painting. Demonstrations by Flip City Gymnasts and KC's Family Tae Kwon Do. A 50/50 raffle will be held with proceeds going towards a bullet proof vest fund.
Contact: Sgt. Nicole Florisi at 928-649-7700.