Hundreds of students meet with first responders at National Night Out hosted by SafeHorns

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UTPD officer Rachel Jett, center, and Peace Officer Ena Becirovic, right, speak with a student at the Co-Op food court for National Night Out, Safehorns’s annual event to bring together the law enforcement community and the students they represent.

Photo Credit: Erin Dorney | Daily Texan Staff

SafeHorns hosted their fourth annual National Night Out in West Campus, where community members met first responders, played games and had free food.

Hundreds of people met with the UT Police Department, the Austin Police Department and Longhorn EMS members at the Co-op Food Court Tuesday evening. SafeHorns president Joell McNew said she hosts the event to educate students through community engagement.

The National Night Out program started in 1984 to promote police-community relationships, and it now has over 38 million participants across the nation, according to the program’s website. The SafeHorns event, which started in 2016, was separate from the National Night Out hosted by APD.

“This event is all about bringing your neighbors together nationally on this one night to get to know each other,” McNew said. “The students are our neighbors, and this is their home, so we try to bring that sense of community and fun with all the first responders who actually
serve them.”

 

McNew said SafeHorns, a safety advocacy nonprofit group, has had smaller events than this throughout the year, such as “Pizza with Police” and “Coffee with a Cop.” McNew said officers from UTPD, APD and Longhorn EMS will always make an appearance at National Night Out, but new organizations will be invited every year. 

“This is the event where we really commit to bringing everyone together in a bigger way,” McNew said. “We want to make it fun but also to where if you are in a crisis and call 911, you recognize the face at your door.”

Hailey Scott, government and African diaspora studies sophomore, said she was passing by the event to grab food but stopped to attend when she heard it was about safety.

“Having this connection with an officer or EMT is important because if something happens in your case, you can know they are there for you,” Scott said. “A lot of people aren’t really comfortable, and so building a one-on-one relationship with officers before something happens makes it easier because they know who you are.”

UTPD lieutenant Layne Smith said she thinks this event will help the community understand officers are approachable. 

“We’re just like you all, and we’re here to protect you all,” Smith said. “A lot of people at the University come from different countries where they don’t trust the police, and we really want you to trust us. That’s why we’re here.”