Flexibility was the unofficial theme of the University of Houston Police Department’s 2023 National Night Out festivities in October, as the department moved to an interior space at the last minute due to the inclement weather earlier this month.
National Night Out is a nationwide event that started in 1984 and is traditionally held in the first week of August. In Texas, and other select areas, National Night Out is observed on the first Tuesday in October, which also typically coincides with cooler weather. Initially scheduled to be outdoors at the Student Center South Circle Drive – in keeping with the more traditional festivities of this national community-building event – the event was moved to the Houston Room in the Student Center.
Despite the last-minute change, National Night Out went on without a hitch with over 200 attendees. Students were drawn to the event by the snow cone truck stationed in front of the University Center and the UHPD police vehicles serving as beacons for the festivities.
UH Police Chief Ceaser Moore said his department showed flexibility to change the event at a moment’s notice and was still successful despite the changes.
“Given the weather, given all of the circumstances that we had to deal with, I think it turned out to be a good event for the community,” said UHPD Crime Prevention Officer Felipe Gutierrez. “Not everything is going to be by the book all the time, and Chief hit right on the head about being able to adapt.”
Aside from UHPD, the event featured Campus Safety, Fire & Life Safety, the Forensic Center of Excellence, Army recruiters, the Office of Emergency Management, Counseling and Psychological Services, and FIXIT.
“I didn’t know that we had so many resources available,” said junior transfer student Erica Parkinson.
Snack-wise, attendees munched on popcorn and snow cones, with the latter being provided by Kona Snow Cones.
After visiting with the departments and other guests, attendees had fun with UHPD officers on hand. Some opted to challenge the officers in a basketball shootout, while others opted for a game of giant Jenga.
Political Science Junior Joshua Martin said seeing UHPD officers having fun with students helps the campus community overall as it allows students to see UHPD officers differently.
Freshman Mariam Aroud agrees.
“I learned that a lot of the UHPD officers are very friendly and open, and they only want to help,” said the Pre-Business Major. “And prior, I was a bit more cautious, but now I feel they’re a friendly face to approach.”
Officer Gutierrez knows it is beneficial for the campus community to see UHPD in a different light than they are accustomed to seeing them in.
“When we engage with students, staff, and faculty, sometimes it’s not always in the best situations,” said Officer Gutierrez. “So, it’s always good to show the other side of the officer. We’re not just robots. We do like to have fun and eat snow cones and popcorn.”
With another successful National Night Out in the books, Chief Moore said his department looks forward to improving the event each and every year.