Tuesday night saw a swarm of Turlock block parties all saying goodbye to crime. The City of Turlock Parks and Recreation, Police and Fire Departments held yet another local National Night Out Against Crime from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Columbia Park.
National Night Out first started in 1984 as an effort by the nonprofit National Association of Town Watch to raise awareness of crime prevention activities and promote neighborhood camaraderie. These modest beginnings exploded to include more than 37 million Americans and 15,000 communities nationwide — including a few in Canada.
“The whole purpose behind this is we want to help build the community-police relations,” said Crime Prevention Officer Michelle Backeroff. “And to open up the communication between the community and the police department and our police officers. It’s also to raise crime-prevention awareness.”
Free swimming hours were available at the Columbia Pool, and there were several exciting guests, such as the City of Turlock’s Go Green mascot and McGruff the Crime Dog. They also brought in a fire engine, and in the basketball court, police officers were playing with neighborhood children.
There were a considerable amount of entertainment options for visitors, including arts and crafts, two bounce houses, a mobile DJ and the Latino Community Roundtable’s hands-free watermelon-eating contest for children. Among the booths available was a table for Target Volunteers, quiet but very present heroes in the community.
“Target does a lot of volunteering in the community,” said Patti Feliciano, one of the community leaders with Target Volunteers. “National Night Out is just one of them, and we’re actually one of the sponsors for National Night Out. We give a lot to this.
In fact, Target Volunteers supports many local events — and have been since Feliciano first joined the company fourteen years ago.
“We also help out a lot with Relay for Life and other things,” said Feliciano. “From walks to cleaning up someone’s yard. It’s just, we don’t advertise it a lot.”
This year’s Night Out was one of the biggest yet, boasting 32 block parties, and they only seem to grow every year. According to Backeroff, this is the third year that the Recreation Department has been on the National Night Out.
“It’s bigger than it was last year in the sense that we got more donations,” said Backeroff. “Ultimately, it sends the message out to all the criminals that crime will not be tolerated in this city.”