Deputies host outreach event
When Ashley Webber arrived at the Elvin Street BREC Park with her two children and two nieces Wednesday evening, they ran inside the gym before she could stop them.
“I always bring them out here every year because it’s safer,” said Webber, 26, who lives on Rush Avenue off of Gardere Lane. “They couldn’t wait to get out here.”
Webber said this is the fourth year that she and her children Maurice Lewis, 8, and Maurianna Webber, 6, have attended the Trick-or-Treat with Deputies, sponsored by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and businesses. She wanted her nieces Tatianna Issachar, 6, and Armani Issachar, 5, to experience the event.
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said when Sheriff Sid Gautreaux took office five years ago, he wanted deputies at each substation to sponsor a community outreach program each year. Deputies at the Burbank Substation voted to host a Halloween event, Hicks said.
“We felt like this was a great opportunity for our deputies to get to know the community in which they serve and it offers kids a safe environment to have fun this Halloween,” Hicks said in an email before the event.
Deputies set up a stage outside for costume contests, but the main action occurred inside the gym. The line to enter the gym stayed long as people from nearby neighborhoods were continuously walking up.
Once children and parents got inside the gym, sponsors set up tables for the children to parade around it, holding their bags out in the age-old tradition of asking for candy.
Deputies set up a cake walk — think musical chairs for cakes — near midcourt while volunteers handed out pizza and sodas. Other off-duty deputies in the crowd and in patrol units gave parents and guardians a sense of security.
“I feel like it’s a better environment than walking around the neighborhood,” said Leo Hollis Sr, 41, who brought his sons Leo Hollis Jr, 13, Malachi Hollis, 10, and Jeremiah Hollis, 7, to the event.
Pam Hawkins, 46, said this is the first year she brought her daughter Kernina Hawkins, 9, and she is impressed with the event. She said they sought candy in the Sagefield subdivision, but they found only two households participating.
Kernina said deputies visited her school, Magnolia Oaks Elementary, and ever since their visit, she had been begging her mom to attend the event. She admitted she also wanted to go so she could hang out with her friends.
Capt. Anthony Ponton, supervisor of the Burbank Substation and the cake walk, said school visits were a main avenue to drum up support for the event. He added that he sees word-of mouth recommendations as a reason attendance grows each year.
Cpl. Chad Jones said the deputies will not know how many people attended the events until Friday at the earliest and possibly not until Monday. Ponton said 800 to 900 people attended the event last year.
Hicks said the law enforcement presence in the area serves as a major deterrent to any would-be criminals who would think about taking advantage of the large number of people, especially children, who were present.
“During the hours we are out in the area, we have had no major crime incidents during the past five years,” Hicks said.