This week we chat with Crime Prevention Officer Stefanie Huertas of the Temple Terrace Police Department. Huertas also is coordinating this year’s Temple Terrace National Night Out, an annual event recognizing the unified efforts of residents and the police department to fight crime together. The event is set to begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday after the Temple Terrace Family Recreation Complex at 6610 E. Whiteway Drive. Huertas has been on the police force for three years and in her post since March.
Q: National Night Out is a popular event in Temple Terrace that usually draws more than a thousand people. What is the appeal and purpose of the event?
Answer: National Night Out is an annual event that is celebrated not only in Temple Terrace, but in communities in all 50 states and U.S. territories, Canada, and U.S. military bases worldwide. The purpose of the event is to join forces to promote and support police-community partnerships, neighborhood unity, safety and crime prevention. The cause of the event can be appealing in itself, but it is the night of fun-filled activities, family-oriented atmosphere and free admission that often attracts many.
Q: What activities are planned?
Some festivities planned for our National Night Out will include a rock climbing wall, bounce house, sand art, face painting, and great food, including pizza, smoothies and ice cream. There will be demonstrations by our Temple Terrace SWAT team and K-9 unit, a helicopter landing made by Aero-Med, and a vehicle crash simulator provided by the Florida Highway Patrol.
Q: How long have you been involved in helping coordinate the event?
Answer: Due to my recent transfer to crime prevention officer, this year will be my first time being involved in helping coordinate the event. However, the Temple Terrace Police Department has been celebrating National Night Out for more than 10 years. We look forward to supporting such a positive event and sharing it with the Temple Terrace community every year.
Q: The annual event in Temple Terrace typically attracts a lot of youth. Why is it important for students to learn about fighting neighborhood crime?
Answer: I would say it’s more important for students to learn exactly what to look for and how to report it. We certainly do not want anyone jeopardizing their own safety, so it is imperative that any crime fighting is left for the police to handle. The eyes and ears of a community is what are incredibly valuable to law enforcement. There are only so many officers available on patrol so observing and reporting helps the police help you.
Q: National Night Out also tends to draw the likes of Smokey the Bear or a superhero. Are organizers planning any celebrity appearances this year?
Answer: Every year McGruff always stops by to say hello, and we will also have the appearance of Spiderman this year. Another local celebrity, our robotic police cruiser named Tiny also will be roaming around.
— Kenneth Knight