Juneau’s Parks and Recreation Department hosts a National Night Out event at Cope Park on Tuesday, one of three local public events connected to the national campaign that seeks to strengthen ties between police and communities. (Meredith Jordan / Juneau Empire)

First responders show up with flashing lights for neighborhood non-emergencies

Local police, firefighters, Coast Guard and other agencies participate in National Night Out events.

A group of about 50 public safety professionals met at the Juneau Police Department at 6 p.m. on Tuesday to break into groups and divvy up visits to National Night Out events.

There were 21 places for them to go — 18 registered by individual block captains and three public events — and they broke into four teams to cover downtown, the valley, Lemon Creek and Douglas, said Sgt. Matt Dubois of the Juneau Police Department.

It’s an important and fun opportunity for first responders to meet the public on neutral terms, he said.

“A lot of times people meet us when they need help and it isn’t their most shining moment,” Dubois said. “This gives us another way to connect with them.”

Teams went to specific block parties as well as public events which were sponsored by CBJ’s Parks and Recreation Department, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Aldersgate Church.

U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Nicholas Sedberry is joined by other service members and visitors aside a 29-foot Coast Guard response boat during National Night Out events in Juneau on Tuesday. (Meredith Jordan / Juneau Empire)

Each team consisted of a mix of people from various agencies and organizations, including JPD, Alaska State Troopers, Capital City Fire and Rescue, Southeast Regional Probation Services, Division of Juvenile Justice, Animal Control, Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search (SEADOGS), and the U.S. Red Cross.

Team 4, the informal name of Dubois’ group, arrived in the rain at Cope Park about 6:30 p.m., a mini-parade of police cars with flashing lights, a regularly sized fire and rescue truck, an SUV with the U.S. Red Cross emblem, and others. He said it was their second stop; the first one had been quiet thanks to the weather. The block captain there had joked, “We’re a fair weather-participating neighborhood,” Dubois said.

The Cope Park event, sponsored by the city parks department, was anchored by a tent and centered with a table filled with information about the history of the park, as well as treats and useful tchotchkes, like dog leashes and poop bags, and safety items like battery operated lights and zipper tag reflectors for kids. The high-quality dog leashes came in handy, said Bill McGoey, a park ranger, a nod to an off-leash dog in the park with an owner about 100 feet away.

About a mile away, the Coast Guard had a 29-foot response boat on display and a small group of service members standing outside its headquarters at 345 Egan Drive at about 7 p.m.

The group was staying close to operations this year rather than doing the parade route, as it did last year, said Chief Petty Officer Nicholas Sedberry, commanding officer of Sector Southeast Alaska. That was personnel related, he said. The number of service members required to be on duty, or ready, put a limit on how many were available for the event. This year’s NNO was more of a meet and greet where they could talk to the public — including potential recruits — about search and rescue operations, and what it’s like to work for the USCG.

Rain might have limited some of the events in the early part of the night, but the skies had cleared by the time the big fire truck pulled up at Aldersgate Church on Cinema Drive at about 7:30 p.m. The church, the third public sponsor of NNO this year, offered food and had a fire going in a fire pit. The fire truck was the highlight, prompting a group of kids to hurry over from a condo complex across the street.

NNO is an annual nationwide campaign aimed at strengthening police ties and building relationships in communities they serve, one neighborhood at a time. This is the 15th year it has been celebrated in Juneau.

• Contact Meredith Jordan at meredith.jordan@juneauempire.com or (907) 615-3190.

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