Latrobe Night Out opens eyes to local policing methods, impaired driving hazards
Latrobe-area residents took a ride on a Fatal Vision roadster and saw how a K-9 officer takes a bite out of crime Tuesday evening at a National Night Out outreach event organized by the city’s police department.
Firefighting equipment also was on display, as well as Army vehicles and a Blackhawk helicopter, during the event at Latrobe’s Memorial Stadium.
Seth Spillar, 9, of Unity was among young visitors who climbed aboard the four-wheeled, pedal-powered roadster and tried to steer between curved lines of cones while wearing distorted Fatal Vision goggles that simulate the effects of having a blood alcohol content of 0.25% or more.
“It’s hard,” he said, after errantly taking a slight turn to the left.
“Everyone is hitting the cones on the left,” said Sgt. Bob Rummell of the Latrobe Police Department. “A couple people went completely off the course.”
The department purchased the eye-opening roadster and three pairs of goggles with a $1,900 grant from the Westmoreland County Drug and Alcohol Commission.
“I particularly like to see the young crowd,” Latrobe police Chief John Sleasman said. “We have a lot of kids in the age range from 8 to 16 come out. We want to catch them at that age, before they start to get in trouble and we have to deal with them in another way.”
The annual Night Out, he said, is an “an opportunity to get together with the community. … There’s a lot of awareness we can bring of what we’re doing on the street.”
Tessie Williams of Derry came to the Latrobe event with her daughter, Isabelle, 5, and older son, Colby. “This event is cute for the young kids, and there are different things for the teenagers to experience, too,” she said.
Two Latrobe police officers, Sgt. Joe Angus and Detective Mike Wigand, attracted attention from both young and old attendees when they decided to dress as Captain American and Mr. Incredible, respectively. “They’re costumes from Halloween,” Angus said, noting, “They told us to dress in uniform.”
Latrobe Officer Robert Derk demonstrated how his K-9 partner, Zeus, is able to track contraband and other items. Zeus also conducted a mock apprehension of a “suspect” — Pennsylvania National Guard Specialist Ryan Gradler of Latrobe, who volunteered to don a protective “bite suit” for the exercise.
Also participating were the Westmoreland County Coroner’s Office, the County Public Safety Command Center, the County Animal Response Team, Mutual Aid Ambulance, the state Game Commission and Keystone State Park.
National Night Out is an annual campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods “safer, more caring places to live.”
Other local Night Out events were held Tuesday at Excela Square at Norwin in Irwin; near the municipal building in Murrysville; at Alison Biondi Gymnastics in Penn Township; and along West Church Street in Ligonier.
On Wednesday, a National Night Out event will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. at Northmoreland Park, 280 Markle Road, Allegheny Township.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .