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Arlington turns out against crime
ARLINGTON — William and Mary Ellen Waran know what it’s like to come in contact with police, but it wasn’t to shake hands and share pleasantries.
Two years ago, the couple came home to their Smokey Point home and found a stranger climbing out a back window.
Since then, the Warans have been on guard. It’s a significant reason why they lobbied vigorously for friends and family to participate in the 28th Annual National Night Out Against Crime, which was held Tuesday, Aug. 2, at the Food Pavilion in Smokey Point.
The event, which is held nationwide, was designed to heighten crime and drug awareness and generate support for anti-crime programs.
“That was a horrible night,” 65-year-old Mary Ellen Waran said of the break-in. “We felt so violated, but the robber stole things that were replaceable. This event tonight is so important for our community. We need to band together and be on watch. Our policemen are heroes and they should be treated like that.”
The Arlington Fire Department extended a ladder that reached high above the tallest building in the area. Arlington firemen, police officers, public works department staff and representatives from the city’s Emergency Management Department were all on hand to show support.
But the real showstopper was Annie — the Arlington police drug detection dog. Children couldn’t get enough of the 4-year-old chocolate Labrador.
“She is a great drug dog and she is the sweetest dog you’d meet,” Arlington Police K-9 Officer Mike Gilbert said. “Drug sniffing is fun for her. She doesn’t know any different. As far as she’s concerned it’s just one big game for her.”
A crime prevention event wouldn’t be right without McGruff the Crime Dog, who walked around the grounds mingling with the large number of children on hand, including 12-year-old Amber Johnson, who has wanted to be a police officer ever since she could remember.
“I’ve thought about all the things I want to do when I get older,” Johnson said.” Right now, seeing all of this, I’d say being a cop is all I want to do.”
Police officers shook hands and answered a barrage of questions from residents concerned about safety in their neighborhoods. According to Paul Ellis, Arlington assistant to the city administrator for special projects, block watch and patrols are becoming more and more common. The Night Out was essentially a warning to criminals that they are not going unnoticed, he said. The night was also a reminder to citizens that police officers are around to serve them for the good and the bad.
“We want our citizens to know that we are here to protect them,” Arlington Police Officer Seth Kinney said. “Tonight is a good time for them to come and meet us and talk to us about anything that’s on their minds. We might look a little intimidating when we work, but it’s because we are dealing with unsavory people.”
Present for nearly the entire three-hour event, the Warans also made an effort to thank the firemen for the heroics that they perform 24/7, 365 days a year.
“It’s everyone,” William Waran said. “After 9/11, the country started to truly embrace our firemen, us included. But they’ve deserved that type of recognition long before that. They help make our community safe and we love them for that.”
The National Association of Town Watch introduced the National Night Out in 1984. Last year’s campaign brought together more than 37 million people from 15,000 communities around the country.