VALPARAISO | Valparaiso police dog Britta calmly chewed a tennis ball as a group of children surrounded her and petted her fur.
The 9-year-old German shepherd was at Williamsburg on the Lake apartments Tuesday as part of National Night Out, a nationwide initiative designed to unite police officers and residents in the fight against neighborhood crime.
About 20 members of the police department, including the K-9 team, bicycle unit, patrol unit and detective division participated, but Britta appeared to be the star attraction with the kids.
“She's good at public relations,” said her handler, officer Jason Hamilton.
Valparaiso Police Chief Michael Brickner said the event helps build trust between officers and residents along with encouraging residents to work with police to prevent crime.
“The officers enjoy meeting new people and seeing old friends,” Brickner said. “We want people to know who we are and that we're here for them.”
Valparaiso Police Sgt. Michael Grennes said police rely on help from the public in fighting crime.
“It makes our job so much easier,” Grennes said. “It's key to having a safe community.”
Denise Wienke was among the Williamsburg residents who attended the ice cream social in the clubhouse.
“I thought it would be good for the kids to hear about safety,” she said.
Wienke said the neighborhood has had problems in the past with speeders and people making loud noise at night, but the police were called and things have improved.
Wienke's son, Sam, 9, who attends Flint Lake Elementary School, said members of the police and fire departments have visited his school.
“I like dogs, so I'm looking forward to that,” he said before the police arrived.
Williamsburg on the Lake apartments were among several neighborhoods police visited. Others included the subdivisions of Sierra, Pine Creek, Lexington Green and Campbell Meadows, and the 3500 block of Oak Grove Drive.
Portage and Hebron police officers also visited neighborhoods in their communities.
Target served as corporate sponsor, and team members handed out school supplies.