FORT BRAGG, 8/4/23 —
California Highway Patrol Officer Olegario Marin watched Fort Bragg area middle school students try to drive trikes through a course of cones, while a mob of friends cheered them on. Most hit the cones, resulting in Officer Marin “pulling them over” for a sobriety check.
A young man tried desperately to walk a straight line while officer Marin watched.
“You are going to jail,” Marin said.
“I’m going to jail!” the teen enthused.
The kids wore virtual reality goggles that simulated what it’s like to drive drunk. The fun was part of Fort Bragg’s National Night Out on Tuesday. The event drew hundreds, mostly families. While kids had fun with high-tech police vehicles, the most popular booth by far was the free Mexican food offered by local restaurant Los Gallitos.
“This is a line worth waiting through,” said Fort Bragg resident and CEO of Parents and Friends Inc. Sage Staham. “This event is fun, and it’s great to see so many groups with booths and so many people out.”
The Fort Bragg Police Department served shaved ice treats and displayed its new 2023 Ford F150 Lightning Special Service Vehicle (SSV) police trucks. They will eventually represent half of the patrol fleet and the beginning of the transition to electric vehicles in the police department. The trucks, simpler and sold as longer lasting than any fuel-powered vehicles, are expected to result in savings beyond the cost of gas, a department press release said.
California State Parks brought a snazzy new all-terrain rescue vehicle, designed to go anywhere in search of the lost or injured. The county showed off its armored Citizen Rescue Vehicle (CRV), an all-terrain vehicle that looks like a tank from a post-apocalyptic movie. While weaponry might be popular in big cities, law enforcement on the Mendocino Coast is most proud of vehicles that can go anywhere in the environment of massive forests, hills and beaches.
The Coast Guard base, one of the prime rescuers was on hand, but without its rescue boat that can turn upside down in heavy surf and right itself to continue with a rescue.
Also on display were other programs for kids like the Fort Bragg Lions Club Leo program. The Blue Zones program and Adventist Health Mendocino Coast offered up health information. Cornhole players filled the middle of the event at Bainbridge Park. The city set up a board showing what its planned new playground will look like. A bounce house stood at one side of the park filled with bouncing children.
Police and their vehicles blocked roads around the event. The Fort Bragg Rotary Club gave away free books. There were booths for hunter and gun safety, the county probation department and the Fort Bragg library.
National Night Out started in the 1980s with people turning their front porch lights on while police cruised around giving away treats. It evolved into neighborhood events where local officers introduced themselves to residents. Now it has grown to larger events featuring law enforcement educating people about who they are and what they are doing.
“We wanted to show the teenagers and adults some of what happens and talk about the consequences of driving under the influence,” Officer Marin said. “All ages participated. And we all had fun.” Read more about National Night Out: https://natw.org/about/