Students participated in a simulation of drunken driving, tested their pepper-spraying abilities and met police officers to kick off National Night Out on the San Jacinto Residence Hall plaza Wednesday.
National Night Out is a nationwide event designed to promote community involvement in crime prevention. UTPD, the Division of Housing and Food Services and other campus organizations partnered with each other to put on the annual event, which has been held at the University for the past 10 years. The event is part of Campus Safety Week, which is hosted by Student Government each year.
“In essence, it’s to get law enforcement and the community to come out together and say, ‘We’re not going to tolerate crime,’” said William Pieper, UTPD crime prevention specialist and Campus Watch writer.
Individual National Night Out parties take place in neighborhoods across the country every year on the first Tuesday of August. In Texas, the date is moved to October because of the heat, Pieper said.
“It started out just getting neighbors to put their porch lights on, so the bad guys knew, ‘Hey, you can’t commit a crime here,’ and then it evolved to actually coming out of your house and meeting your neighbors and getting involved with the community,”Pieper said.
Students had the chance to practice their pepper-spraying skills with training spray and experience a simulation of drunken driving by using Fatal Vision goggles, a tool used to simulate the effects of alcohol on a person’s vision. While wearing the goggles, students practiced throwing beanbags and footballs at targets to demonstrate how hand-eye coordination is impaired when intoxicated.
“It really teaches you that drunk driving is not a good idea,” said James Rauhut, a management information systems senior who volunteered at the event.
Business freshman Allison Walker said she felt the event was a good way to build community between students.
“I think a lot of times people in the dorms kind of stay to themselves, but this really helps people get out and meet their neighbors and other people,” Walker said.
Campus Safety Week will include other safety events such as Fire Safety Day, Cop Day and Law Enforcement Day for students to learn more about UTPD and community policing, Pieper said.
Applied learning and development junior Carolina Medina, who works as a resident assistant in Prather Hall Dormitory, said she thinks the event was a good way for UTPD to build relationships with students on campus.
“It really puts a face to the police department here, and you meet them and realize that they’re really fun people,” Medina said.