By Matt Wiley
As the sun begins to set in Hunter’s Green, periodic sirens can be heard coming from the community’s Capt. Nathaniel Hunter Park. A police tank rumbles down Highland Oak Dr. as the bomb squad’s robot examines a pipe-shaped object in the park’s parking lot.
However, what sounds like a scene from an action movie was actually just a friendly community meeting its first responders at the 29th annual “National Night Out Against Crime” on the evening of October 2.
Across the City of Tampa, 18 neighborhoods united to meet the Tampa Police Department (TPD) officers and Tampa Fire Rescue (TFR) squads that patrol their respective communities.
In Hunter’s Green, where more than 300 people again came out to mingle with TPD officers and TFR firefighters and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) deputies and to marvel at the different gadgets and vehicles each agency uses.
“This year’s turnout wasn’t as big as in previous years, but it was still a good event,” said James Lombardi, leader of the Hunter’s Green Master Association’s Crimewatch Program and the event’s coordinator for the past five years. “I think the fact that it was on a school night might have kept attendance down, but it was still a great turnout.”
Even Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn stopped by.
“I’ve been coming (to Hunter’s Green’s National Night Out) for years,” Buckhorn said. “It’s a great experience. It gets the community together and they get to see all of our emergency ‘toys.’”
The toys he was referring to included the TPD Dive Squad’s underwater arsenal of gizmos that they use in search and recovery missions, the Bomb Squad’s robot, the TPD “Rescue 1” armored tank, and, of course, TFR Station 21’s fire engine.
“It gives the community an opportunity to meet their local station’s crew,” said TFR Chief Thomas Forward. “These are their firefighters. These assets belong to them.”
Forward helped children, such as 6-year-old Asia Thompson, into the fire engine to turn on the lights and sirens and see what it’s like behind the wheel.
TPD Cpl. Robert Clifford demonstrated TPD’s Bomb Squad robot for the public using its massive remote control.
“It’s a little more complex than a remote control car,” he said, jokingly, maneuvering the robot’s long mechanical arm.
Arbor Greene’s ‘Night Out’
Just a couple of minutes east on Cross Creek Blvd., residents of the Arbor Greene community also became acquainted with their local TPD squads and were visited by TPD’s Rescue 1 at the Arbor Greene Community Center.
“It went very well,” said Hally Boucher, who organized the event for the second time with her husband Paul. They hosted their first “Night Out” in 2010. “We had a large TPD presence.”
Boucher says that, in addition to Rescue 1, there also was a Q & A session with two TPD motorcycle patrols and an appearance by the K-9 Unit.
More than 60 members of the Arbor Greene community came out to the event, which also included a video presentation by MS-NBC security consultant Bill Stanton about home and vehicle burglaries, as well as child abductions.
Boucher says that flyers offering security tips were handed out to give members of the community some ideas of how to better protect their homes and neighborhood from crime, and even some security items, including flashlights and sliding glass door locks.
“The main thing at these events is raising awareness,” says TPD Sgt. Robert Baxter, who attended both events. “Just because people live in gated communities doesn’t mean they are immune to crime. If the community helps keep an eye out for crime, it makes our jobs that much easier.”