Gulfport’s celebration of National Night Out, which is normally held on August 4, promotes community building as a way to prevent crime.
“The idea is to gather people in a neighborly way, where they can just get to know each other, have some conversations, meet some resources, and understand it’s us against the criminals,” Gulfport Police Chief Rob Vincent said. “We don’t want criminals and the best way to get rid of the criminals is to have good relationships with your friends and neighbors. That’s what it’s all about.”
Detective Hahn Pham manned a display featuring Gulfport Police Department members, photos, information on the city and ways to prevent crime.
Pham is also a marine-certified officer who is able to pilot the department’s police boat, a single-engine 24-foot Zodiac that has 225 horsepower.
“We have six marine-certified officers,” Pham said. “We take the boat out throughout the week. It could be night time or day time, and we patrol Boca Ciega Bay for safety and perform safety inspections.”
The St. Petersburg Police made an appearance as well and held a demonstration with their K-9 unit.
The K-9s also showed off their smelling ability and tracked down a wallet that was buried in the ground.
“We teach the dogs that it is OK to use their natural abilities,” said St. Petersburg Police Officer James Olson. “After we teach them obedience, we teach them how to use their nose. That’s the most import part of what they do.”
Obedience training lasts 16 weeks. They learn to jump over fences or crawl through a sewer tube.
“The dogs actually love it,” Olson said.
The Gulfport Fire Department also got in on the action.
“Basically, this is a police department event and they invite us out here to show what Gulfport has to offer in regards to public safety,” said Lieutenant Adam Poirrier of the Gulfport Fire Department. “We were able to bring out all our toys and equipment to show the community what keeps them safe every day.
The department had a fire hose demonstration and allowed kids to shoot it at a pretend house.
“[The hose] is an inch and three-quarter attack line that we bring off the engine, which is the exact attack line that we would fight a residential structure fire with,” Poirrier said. “The max pressure on that nozzle is 100 psi, which is a lot more than your normal garden hose.”
The fire department was able to exhibit their vintage1925 American LaFrance fire truck, restored to its former glory through a prisoner program.
“It was the city of Gulfport’s first fire truck,” Lieutenant Erick Fuchs said. “It was sent out to PRIDE [Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises, Inc] in Daytona, which is part of the prison system, and it was refurbished. It used to literally just be a box of parts and they were able to put it all together. And it runs,” Fuchs said.
Those who attended also got to meet Amos the mini horse, who is used by the St. Petersburg Police Department to teach children how to prevent bullying. Amos has been on the Today Show and was awarded the “Best Pet Trick in America” award for his basketball-playing skills.