Vader, the 's K9 dog, isn't just a great crime-fighting tool. Officer Sam Hovenden, Vader's handler, says the 7-year-old German Shepherd also makes it a bit easier to interact with community members.
"It's nice because it breaks down a lot of barriers," said Hovenden, who has been the department's K9 patrol officer for the past 12 years. "Everyone likes dogs."
Hovenden and Vader joined a group of nearly 30 officials from the Redmond Police Department, and the City of Redmond in visiting some 49 block parties for National Night Out on Tuesday. The annual crime-prevention event encourages people around the country to host parties to meet other neighbors and interact with police officials.
Jim Bove, the department's community outreach facilitator, said about 2,500 people attended parties around Redmond on Tuesday. Both the number of parties and number of participants are all-time highs, he said.
Hovenden has participated in National Night Out for several years and said he appreciates the chance to talk to residents in a positive environment. Oftentimes, his only interaction with members of the public is while responding to a crime or searching for a suspect.
In the midst of hunting down the bad guys, Hovenden said it's important for police officers to remember the primary purpose of their job is to serve the community.
"I just try to keep that balance," he said.
Rob Helm, who attended a National Night Out Party off 172nd Avenue Northeast in Education Hill, said many people in his neighborhood know each other and will contact their neighbors if they see something suspicious, like a garage door that's been left open.
Helm said one of the main benefits of National Night Out is that it gives residents a chance to form the connections that make them comfortable enough to reach out if they see something amiss.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time it's not a problem, but it's still nice to know (the neighborhood vigilance) is out there," he said.
Have photos or videos or your own to share? Sign in to your free Patch account and look for the "upload photos and videos" button within this post. Or, you can email your images to Redmond Patch editor Caitlin Moran at firstname.lastname@example.org.