It's easy to spend a night in, sitting on the couch and watching television. But Tuesday evening was all about spending the night out.
The City of Turlock celebrated National Night Out Tuesday evening, as residents stepped outside to meet their neighbors at community block parties and take a stand against crime.
The nation's first National Night Out was held in 1984, as an effort by the nonprofit National Association of Town Watch to promote involvement in crime prevention activities and neighborhood camaraderie. From relatively modest beginnings in that first year, with 2.5 million Americans participating in 400 communities, the event has grown to involve more than 37 million Americans and 15,000 communities – including some in Canada.
“While the one night is certainly not an answer to crime, drugs and violence, National Night Out represents the kind of spirit, energy and determination to help make neighborhoods a safer place year round,” said National Association of Town Watch Executive Director, Matt Peskin. “The night celebrates safety and crime prevention successes and works to expand and strengthen programs for the next 364 days.”
Last year, the City of Turlock earned an award from the National Association of Town Watch for its fourth year participating, with 24 block parties. This year, roughly 30 block parties were held in the biggest Turlock National Night Out ever.
Those events ranged from cookouts to ice cream socials. In some cases, community members simply got together to talk about the issues facing their neighborhoods.
And Turlock Police officers, firefighters, city staff, and even McGruff the Crime Dog were out in full force Tuesday evening, touring the block parties and building a relationship with the community.
“National Night Out highlights the ongoing partnership between public safety, local businesses, and our community,” said Turlock Crime Prevention Officer Michelle Backeroff. “… National Night Out is an opportunity to strengthen those partnerships by encouraging neighborhood spirit and providing visits by public safety and city leaders. It's a message to all that crime will not be tolerated.”
The City of Turlock Recreation Department threw a National Night Out get-together of its own Tuesday evening, at Turlock's Columbia Park. More than 50 Turlockers gathered for a night of crafts, a Turlock DJ service, barbecue, and swimming at the city pool.
More than 15 children were waiting to celebrate National Night Out even before the Columbia Park event began Tuesday. According to Turlock Parks, Recreation & Facilities Department Superintendent Erik Schulze giving those kids a fun evening, with an opportunity to get to know city staff and police officers, is what National Night Out is all about.
“The more we can program for them and provide activities, the fewer issues there are,” Schulze said.