Booths educating visitors on safety issues and live demonstrations were all part of the National Night Out, held at Wolfe Park Tuesday.
Children and families especially enjoyed watching the police dogs.
Officer Dennis Bradshaw led a K9 demonstration showing how the German Shepherds are trained to sniff out bombs and drugs. The canines are also trained to help find not only the "bad guys," but missing children and the elderly as well, he explained.
The purebred dogs came from The Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Germany and Hungary, according to West Hartford Officer Rosario Savastra who was participating in the demonstration with his dog Reign.
Stratford Officer Bobby Joy brought his dog Roscoe, who boasts over 44 "tracks" to date.
Other officers participating in the K9 demonstration were Officer Chris Goode with his dog Gunny, Officer Jose Diaz, who is new to the K9 unit; and Easton Officer Tamara French who has been a K9 handler for seven years.
French has won two awards including Female Officer of the Year.
Bradshaw "volunteered" Diaz to wear the bite suit to demonstrate how and where the dogs are trained to attack criminals.
Savastra demonstrated the "Bark and Hold" method of apprehension with Bradshaw.
Savastra said it takes about eight weeks for the dogs to complete their training. The animals are initially trained in the countries they came from by professional handlers and then shipped to the U.S. where the police department gets first choice of which ones they want, according to Bradshaw.
Bradshaw has been training dogs for four decades and has volunteered with the police K9 unit training dogs for the past eight years. He is in charge of Region 2 K9 unit of the Connecticut Police Work Dog Association.
Always wear a helmet
Matthew Brisch of Monroe, owner of Slampigz Skate Apparel, was on hand to educate kids and teens about the importance of wearing a helmet and proper padding when skateboarding, riding bikes, and scooters.
His team held a free raffle and an extreme sports demo.
Also demonstrating safety in regards to seat-belts was the Monroe Police Department with their "Convincer" machine.
The simulator allows participants to see what it feels like to crash into something head-on while wearing a seat belt. The mission is to "convince" people to wear seat-belts at all times.
Officer John Yaworowski was running the simulator, which was sponsored by Traveler's Insurance and the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association.
A lifeguard demonstration was held by the pool and firefighters and EMS volunteers were on hand to answer any questions or concerns Monroe citizens had.
Target Loss Prevention Manager Andrew Marino volunteered his time, along with 42 other Target employees from Trumbull and Ansonia Target stores.
The workers gave out goodie bags for the kids and had a special bag for officers, which included a travel coffee mug and the Target mascot dog dressed in a navy blue police uniform.
"And doughnuts!" Marino added with a laugh.
Marino found out about the event when he saw a banner hanging at the park and said he wanted to be a part of it. He has participated in Stratford's National Night out for the last eight years and thinks it's a great cause.
Debra Greenwood, President and CEO of the Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield County discussed ways to prevent, not only domestic violence, but also raise awareness on how to prevent sexual abuse, assault, and other types of violent crimes.
The organization plans on opening a center at the Monroe Town Hall after Labor Day, Greenwood said, to give Monroe residents a safe haven if ever they find themselves in a dangerous situation.
Police Chief Salvatore said he was pleased by how well the event turned out and for Detective Kelly McFarland's efforts. McFarland, the police department's youth officer, coordinated the event.
"It's just remarkable the amount of involvement all of these volunteers have," Salvatore said.
The free event was sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch and Target and co-sponsored by the Monroe Police Department.
Other local sponsors included the Monroe, Stevenson, and Stepney Volunteer Fire Departments, Monroe EMS, Monroe Social Services, Monroe Parks and Recreation Department, Center for Women and Families, Slampigz, Rita's Ice, and KinderCare.
This is the second year for the event and it keeps growing, according to Police Chief John Salvatore.
"Kelly took something I threw in her lap last year and just ran with it," Salvatore said with a laugh. "She's done a great job and it keeps getting better every year."