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National Night Out kicks off at Victoria Mall

By BY ERIN PRADIA - EPRADIA@VICAD.COM
Sept. 24, 2011 at 4:24 a.m.

John Cecil, head of the Child Fingerprinting Project with the Civilian Police Academy, fingerprints Savannah Garza, 5, at the Nation Night Out kickoff event.

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The event will occur Oct 4. To register your neighborhood block party so members of the Crime Prevention Unit and other local officials to attend, call the unit at 361-485-3808 and provide the time and location of your party.

When the Edison family brought their son Gage through the Victoria Mall to celebrate his 4th birthday at Chuck E. Cheese, he was also surprised with a balloon dog and a plastic fire hat at the Victoria Police Department's National Night Out kickoff event on Saturday.

Gage's father, Michael Edison, 31, of Goliad, said their family already planned to participate in the National Night Out event on Oct. 4, but the event was a nice reminder.

Safety prevention booths and promotional material from sponsors encouraged all mall-goers to plan a block party in their neighborhood on Oct. 4 and register their block parties with the Crime Prevention Unit.

National Night Out is an attempt to unite the community and the local law enforcement, said Victoria Police Sgt. Felix Appelt.

The department's Crime Prevention Unit consists of three certified crime prevention specialists, Appelt and senior patrol officers Willie Whitfield and Chris Guerra.

The Crime Prevention Unit speaks at local events and offers a variety of programs. Neighborhood Watch helps neighborhoods bond to prevent crime in their immediate area and Operation ID informs citizens how to mark their property to prevent theft and aid in recovery.

"We want people to get to know their neighbors," said Appelt, head of the Crime Prevention Unit. "They can also identify if they are experiencing common problems."

Registering a neighborhood block party is free and it notifies the Police Department, Fire Department and city officials of the time and location of each block party.

"We will try to attend each party, listen to the complaints of the residents and address them," Appelt said. "We want to tell them we appreciate what they are doing and hear their concerns."

About 25 booths featured safety presentations and sponsors of National Night Out gave out promotional materials and goodie bags at the kickoff party.

"There is a booth for alarm systems - anything that will help fight crime," he said.

The Travelers Protection Agency presented representatives from two schools and Appelt with vests and signs donated to help crosswalk guards keep children safe coming to and from school.

The Civilian Police Academy, also a program offered by the Crime Prevention Unit, provided free on-site registered fingerprinting for children.

Target is the main sponsor of National Night Out, Appelt said, but the Boy Scouts and H-E-B also had booths at the kickoff event.

Entertainment was provided by Victoria East High School cheerleaders, The Debbie Bennett Green School of Dancing, Dow Chemicals, Victoria East and West High School Ballet Folklorico, Manning Gymnastics Hot Shots and Victoria Karate Academy.

"These block parties celebrate running crime out of your neighborhoods," Appelt said, "and tell criminals, 'Hey, you're not wanted in this neighborhood.'"

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