Thursday evening, Alton welcomed citizens to its 6th Annual National Night Out at Sylvia Vela Park. For Mark Perez, his first National Night Out as Chief of Police means keeping the bridge between community and law enforcement open through fun.
“It’s a continuation from our past ones, it being our sixth annual National Night Out. We’re just going to pick up where we left off last year,” said Perez. “If there’s a gap, [we’re here] to try and bridge the gap between the community and the police officers.”
He also emphasized building good relationships with surrounding municipalities and working together as a united region.
“Even though we’re different law enforcement agencies of different cities with thousands of people, we still rely on each other for resources,” Perez said. “Anytime you have a tragic event or a critical incident, you want to reach out for mutual aid.”
Mayor Salvador Vela greeted his constituents on stage alongside Parks & Recreation Director Samm Mercado, Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra, Mission Consolidated School District President Roy Vela, and Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Dr. Sonia M. Treviño. Precinct 3 Commissioner Everardo ‘Ever’ Villarreal also joined the event.
“Tonight, I want to welcome you [here]. It’s a night you will remember,” Vela said, addressing his citizens. “You bless me, and you bless the city of Alton.”
Attendees showed up in costumes, ready for the costume contest later that evening. Lines stretched across the park as families received free school supplies and local resources from table vendors.
La Joya mother Alejandra Heredia said that bringing kids to meet police officers can help minimize their anxiety about them, even the loud sirens of the patrol cars.
“It’s important for our kids to know our police officers,” she said. “I think it’s a good idea for them to get involved, especially with the children.”
Elvira Fuentes of Elsa attended the event to support her husband, a police officer with the Alton PD.
“It’s amazing,” Fuentes said about the large crowd in attendance. “I will always back the blue.”
Later that evening, children aged 2 to 13 stood on the basketball court to await judging based on audience reaction.
Three winners from three age categories took home gifts from the city of Alton Public Safety Department inside big, orange, Halloween-themed gift bags.
Cheerleaders from O. Garza Elementary, dressed in red, dazzled guests with a routine.
Guests munched on hot dogs and pizza provided by local law enforcement as live music played. Modified cars played loud bass in a parking lot for the local car show, while retro vehicles sat pristine.
As the event continued, Chief Perez reassured the community of public safety.
“We work hard every day diligently to keep everyone who lives in Alton, travels in Alton, or visits or shops in Alton, keep ’em safe,” the Chief of Police said. “We do our best to combat crime, lower the crime rate…Everything we do at the police department is looking out for citizens’ safety.”