“Is that a real gun?”
His eyes wide with excitement, 7-year-old Mauro Vargas ran up to Officer Ron Manzo the minute he spotted the blue uniform at the Ravensworth Baptist Church in Springfield on Tuesday, Aug. 6.
“Is it heavy? Do you ever have to shoot people? Can I see it?” Vargas quickly asked Manzo.
After a short lesson on gun safety, Vargas told Manzo he wanted to be a police officer when he grew up.
“I want to fight crime and keep people safe,” he said.
“Talking to this little boy about being a police officer was a great way to start the night off. It’s what this night is all about,” Manzo said.
Manzo, a Fairfax County police officer based in the West Springfield Police district, was at the church for an ice-cream social to celebrate National Night Out (NNO), an event designed to strengthen community connections within neighborhoods and to heighten awareness of crime prevention issues. Along with Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock) and Fairfax County School Board member Megan McLaughlin, Manzo attended 10 neighborhood NNO events Tuesday night.
He was one of the hundreds of Fairfax County police officers, firefighters and other first responders who joined communities across the county in recognition of the 30th annual National Night Out. Sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch and Target Corporation, crime prevention officers in Fairfax County have worked to help coordinate local events all year long.
While the threat of rain kept the crowd count down, residents still enjoyed dozens of pool parties, picnics, parades, concerts and carnivals across Fairfax County.
“This is what makes our neighborhoods great places to live, people coming together to celebrate National Night Out,” Cook said to residents at several NNO events. “We are lucky to have really active neighborhood watch programs throughout Fairfax County.”
Captain Joe Hill of the West Springfield Police Department said when neighbors notice and report suspicious activity, it immediately helps keep criminal activity low. “Good neighbors are the best defense against crime in a community,” Hill said.
Hill attended several events with Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), who ended the evening at the Colchester Road Neighborhood Watch event.
“These events are a great way to meet your neighbors and keep your neighborhood safe,” Herrity said.
Fairfax’s Middleridge neighborhood hosts one of the largest and most elaborate NNO events in the county, with carnival rides, a band and information kiosks provided by various organizations throughout the county. Delegate David Bulova (D-37) and his wife, Gretchen, started the Middleridge party 17 years ago.
Joe Lucero, who attended the event with his wife, Kelly, and two young daughters, said Middleridge was a strong family neighborhood. “People look out for one another. This is one of our favorite events,” Lucero said.
Fairfax has more than 600 neighborhood watches throughout the county, with the longest sustained Neighborhood Watch program in the nation. Learn more about National Night Out at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/police/nno/ or by contacting the crime prevention officer at your local district station.