Provo Police, first responders inspire safety in community at National Night Out

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Provo police officers speak to attendants at Provo’s annual National Night out in Pioneer Park. National Night out is a free community event where police officers, first responders and other service professionals meet with Provo residents for an evening of community enrichment. (Sydni Merrill)

Provo Police, first responders and other safety organizations gathered in Pioneer Park on Tuesday, Aug. 1 from 6-8 p.m. for the annual National Night Out.

National Night Out is a community-building campaign usually held the first Tuesday in August in communities all around the U.S. Provo has participated in the campaign for more than 20 years.

“National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community,” according to their website.

The Provo Police Department headed up the event. Police officers, school resource officers, fire fighters, 911 dispatchers, the mountain rescue team, Provo SWAT, Provo Police Victim Services and other organizations all set up booths at the event to share safety messages with the community.

Three firefighters sit on the end of a firetruck at National Night Out. Provo firefighters have been busy this summer fighting brush fires. (Sydni Merrill)

Provo residents Robin and Juliah Roberts donated hotdogs and served them to the community. They’ve provided the free food for the public at Provo’s National Night Out for more than five years.

“It’s a great opportunity for the community to get together and meet police officers and see their vehicles,” Robin Roberts said.

The Roberts served hot dogs for the duration of the event and enjoyed mingling with the officers and community members.

“I love seeing all the little kids and children learning that police officers are their friends. They get excited and have fun. I’m glad Provo city does this,” Juliah Roberts said.

Lorien Asisi works for Metro 911 as a 911 dispatcher, servicing Provo, Orem and Lindon communities. Dispatchers receive 911 calls and contact the correct organizations in order to send help.

“Here at National Night Out, we’re just trying to educate people on the purpose of 911, when you call 911 and what information you need to give when you call,” Asisi said.

The first and most important information to give to a 911 dispatcher is the address of the emergency said Asisi. That way first responders are able to arrive and give help as soon as possible.

Asisi also wanted to reassure the public that accidentally calling 911 is very common and to not worry about it.

“If you call 911 just stay on the line,” Asisi said when asked what the public should do if they accidentally call 911. “Don’t hang up because we can cancel the call right then and there. If you do hang up then we research your phone number to find out where you live to send help to you.”

The Provo SWAT team also displayed equipment, allowing the public to safely handle firearms and protective gear. Police officers displayed drone equipment used in the department. Mountain rescue volunteers brought an off-roading vehicle and gave rides to those in attendance.

The Provo Victim Services set up a strength wall, asking attendees to write down what they feel proud of and what makes them feel strong.

Administrators and other employees at the Provo Police Victim Services sit at their booth. Victim Services asked community members to write on their strength wall, listing out what they what their strengths were or things that participants were proud of. (Sydni Merrill)

Lily Ramires, coordinator at Provo Victim Services wanted to let the Provo community know that they are there to help anyone and everyone that has been a victim of a crime. There doesn’t need to be a filed police report in order to receive help from victim services.

Ramires said they help any person who has experienced child abuse, sexual assault or domestic violence. “We help them with resources and refer them out to other community resources. We write protective orders and guide them through the criminal justice process if there is a challenge.”

Erieka Pimentel, the administrator over Provo community policing, was providing face painting at the event. She wanted to share with children and members of the community that police offers are there to help and support all members of the community.

“The police are not just there if you’ve done something wrong, which people always associate them with. We’re also there to help you and to be your friend and help keep you safe and for you to enjoy life,” Pimentel said.

Police officers speak to community members about the Hide Lock Keep program. Officer Wortman said that students are particularly vulnerable to theft. (Sydni Merrill)

Officer Brian Wortman, community police officer, wanted to specifically send out a message to students about how to keep their valuables safe. Wortman often patrols south of BYU campus and works with a lot of student victims in campus housing.

He said students are particularly vulnerable to theft because of their tendency to leave cars unlocked and bicycles unsecured.

“We’ve started the ‘Hide Lock Keep’ program which is hide your valuables, lock your car and you get to keep your valuables,” Wortman said.

Other common issues that police officers frequently see are gift card scams.

Police officers stand near police bikes. Police officers from all different departments attended Provo’s National Night Out. (Sydni Merrill)

Nick Patterson, sergeant in the Provo criminal investigations department, wanted to warn the public that anytime someone is calling from a company asking for payment via a gift card it’s a scam.

“If you get someone calling, saying, ‘hey I’m from the power company and you’re late on your bill. Go to the store, buy some gift cards and give them to us over the phone,’ that’s 100% a scam,” Patterson said. “You’re going to lose your money.”

Patterson said once a victim gives the person on the other line the gift card numbers and information that the scammers will withdraw the funds and most of the time the money leaves the U.S. Once the money is gone from the U.S. there is nothing the police can do to get it back.

Captain Brian Wolken of the Special Operations division headed up planning for National Night Out. Preparations for the event began in May and Wolken described this year’s National Night Out as a success.

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