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South Valley Journal

Riverton’s Night Out Against Crime educates, soaks community

Aug 30, 2017 04:21PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Taylor Langstrom of Salt Lake Unified Fire Authority shows kids how to spray a fireman’s hose. (Lexi Peery/City Journals)

By Lexi Peery | [email protected]

Salt Lake Unified Police Department and Fire Authority showed off their dogs, hoses and pizza eating abilities — all while educating the public on safety and prevention — on Aug. 2 at Riverton City’s Night Out Against Crime.

Children ran from booth to booth at Riverton City Park collecting pencils, magnets, slap bracelets and pamphlets from groups such as the police department dispatchers to Utah Poison Control Center. 

Shelly Dejong, a dispatch personnel executive for UPD sat at the dispatch table, which encouraged residents to register their cell phones, handing out slap bracelets to kids walking by. She said community events allow residents to find out about the resources available to them, and often, officers receive tips from residents at events such as this.

“This will help people get directed on how to issue tips and complaints, so they aren’t scared or intimidated by the police,” Dejong said. “This is the best way to fight crime.”

Dozens of police cars and trailers, inflatable animals and a slide, booths and a helicopter surrounded the park, keeping residents of all ages entertained. Jory Geneiting said she was driving by when her kids saw the blow-up dog in a Hawaiian shirt and begged to check it out.

“I didn’t even know this was going on, but it’s a great way to have an evening out of the house,” Geneiting said as she watched her two children ride in train cars painted like mini police cars pulled by a four-wheeler. 

The activities not only allowed residents to have fun and meet members of UPD and UFA, but officers were able to take the opportunity to educate the public about their K-9 units, fire safety and car safety — to name a few of the demonstrations. 

Taylor Sandstrom, a firefighter and paramedic for UFA, kept kids cool during the hot evening with two thick hoses hooked up to nearby fire hydrants. It was set up as a re-creation of an old-fashioned fireman’s game, which in the past included two teams with hoses trying to push a keg hanging on a rope to the opposing side. Sandstrom stood near one hose helping kids try to spray a ball to the other side, all while soaking their opponents.

“This is an opportunity to educate the public on what we do. Like the saying goes, ‘an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,’” Sandstrom said. “Plus, this is just fun.”

Members of Salt Lake’s K-9 Unit roped off a rectangular area where they demonstrated the abilities and brains of their well-trained canines. People sat around the area eagerly asking questions about the dogs, watching as the canines perfectly obeyed commands, quickly sniffed out drugs and viciously attack an officer’s arm — which had several layers of padding.

K-9 Officer Ryan Watson shared facts like why dogs are given commands in German from “their dads” — a longtime K-9 Unit tradition — and how their dogs are trained with real narcotics. 

After the K-9 demonstration, UPD and UFA sat down to a friendly pizza eating competition, with UFA eventually coming out on top. 

Chief of Police Services for UPD’s Riverton precinct Rosie Rivera said the focus of the precinct is building community relations, and that’s exactly what they were doing tonight.

“It’s all about teaching safety and prevention in the community, and this is also a good way for us to get to know people out here because it’s all about community,” Rivera said. 

Ryan Martinsen was visiting family and friends in Riverton that evening. He went to the park for a picnic, and he said he enjoyed Riverton’s Night Out.

“Having events like this helps you realize police officers are friendly normal people,” Martinsen, an Orlando, Florida, resident said. “It’s nice seeing police in a different context besides giving you a speeding ticket.”