MAGNA — The sounds of police sirens and happy children filled Pleasant Green Park in unexpected harmony Monday night, kicking off a series of "Night Out Against Crime" events for the Unified police and fire departments.
It was the 34th year of the national event, which brings together law enforcement and the communities they serve for a night of socializing, demonstrations, games and food.
"It breaks down the barrier between the community and law enforcement," said Unified police detective Russ Buhler. "It gets people to put a face to the name and a name to the face."
The 26th annual Night Out in Magna featured a rock wall, bounce houses, hot dogs, and plenty of police and fire vehicles and gear for curious kids.
In the three years he's participated, Buhler said he's seen the Magna event grow significantly.
"So far it's busier than any other year," he said. "I think this event is getting more and more traction."
Lt. Ken Malone said he appreciated the event's capacity to "open up communication" between law enforcement officers and the people they serve.
"I think it's a great way to meet the public, meet the community," Malone said. "Any time we can bridge that gap, we take advantage of it."
While officers and firefighters chatted with community members and showed off their police cars, firetrucks, and gear, dozens of children nearby climbed the rock wall and jumped around the inflatable bounce houses.
Monica Andersen blew up a balloon bearing the Unified police logo for her daughter, Kelsey, then watched as Kelsey ran to join her brother Ryan in a bounce house. Andersen said they'd come to the park for her older son's football practice, but decided to stick around and partake in the Night Out activities.
"I like when the kids can see policemen as nice, not as a scary thing," Andersen said.
For some families, the Night Out is an annual tradition. Heather Perez, en route to the hot dog tent with her sons Kayden and Marcel, said she and her family try to make it out every year.
"It's fun to see the community and police and firefighters that are from our area," Perez said.
Marcel, who is 11, had just had the chance to sit on a police motorcycle.
"It's really cool," he said.
Monday night marked the first of three such events for the Unified Police Department this month. The second will be held Tuesday night at Evergreen Park in Millcreek, and the third will take place Aug. 13 at Taylorsville City Hall.
Other Utah police departments will also host Night Out events this week, including the Ogden and Centerville police departments on Tuesday night.