National Night Out

Zoey D’Amico, 2, of Solon sits in a police SWAT vehicle as mom Michelle and Officer Patrick Perhacs look on at the National Night Out at the Solon Community Center last week. The police themed event featured safety demonstrations, activities and more to break barriers between police and their communities.

Rain didn’t dampen the excitement of 2-year-old Max Raden, of Solon, as he entered last week’s National Night Out.

“Look at that!” he said to his mother Kim, pointing to a firetruck.

Brother Mason, 9, excitedly said he hoped to see his school’s DARE Officer.

This was the first time her family attended National Night Out, Mrs. Raden said of the crime-prevention themed event presented now for eight years in Solon.

The evening featured safety demonstrations, equipment, food, activities, games and more. Presented at the Solon Community Center, National Night Out is held the same night nationwide. The evening’s overall goal is to break down walls between the community and safety forces and have a better partnership overall.

“The whole idea is for people to feel safe talking to us,” explained Lt. William Vajdich, who organized the event. “This is a step in the right direction.”

The event had a public safety focus more than in previous years, Lt. Vajdich said. Booths featured information on safe driving, the Cuyahoga County Emergency Management System as well as the police department’s Safe Passages program, which helps individuals with addiction find treatment.

“It’s a great event for the community, especially in light of what happened,” said the Rev. Cynthia Theobald, of Solon United Methodist Church, in reference to the shootings in Dayton and El Paso, Texas.

It is important to know the police more personally, added Solon resident Maury Greenstein, a member of the department’s Citizen’s Academy. That is, as opposed to seeing them in the rear-view mirror with blue lights flashing.

Mr. Greenstein said he has enjoyed what he has learned as part of the academy. Members shuttled attendees to the National Night Out from the parking lot as well as volunteered throughout the evening.

“This is all about getting out in the public,” Solon resident Nick DiCicco, director of the Chagrin Valley Dispatch, said. Mr. DiCicco and fellow dispatchers were on hand to answer questions and were stationed at the Communications Command Truck, owned by Orange Village which handles all communication in the valley.

“This is all about involving the community,” Mr. DiCicco said of the significance of the event. “It’s about getting out in the public.”

“It’s good to learn the different types of safety services that are available,” Solon resident Cheryl Ellis said while perusing the booths. “It’s a good community event and a valuable learning experience.”

Attendees took time to tour the various vehicles on display, as well as the Mobile Command Center, where Officer William DiGiovanni fielded questions. The center has various functions, including remotely hooking up to cameras from Cuyahoga County as well as to allow officers to do radio communications.

There were also vehicles on hand used by the SWAT teams and bomb squad.

Lt. Vajdich said the event has been well received from the community throughout the years. “There’s definitely a following,” he said. “People know about it, like it and expect it.”

He said he hoped people left with the idea that crime prevention is aided by better relationships with the community.

“It’s a partnership,” Lt. Vajdich said.

For the last decade, Sue Reid has covered the government, business climate and residents of Solon. A Times reporter for 22 years, Ms. Reid has earned commendations from the Ohio Newspaper Association and Cleveland Press Association.

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