As part of National Night Out, a series of block parties held to raise crime awareness and promote neighborhood unity, communities came together in a celebration of safety. National Night Out is also a major promotional event for Neighborhood Watch, as block captains are usually the ones who plan the parties. Safety tips are shared and residents get to know each other so they can develop a keener eye for what belongs and what doesn’t.
“I think it went quite well,” said Antioch Crime Prevention Commissioner Hans Ho. “It was as good or better than the last couple of years. People were all doing their part, and I want to see this tradition continue.”
Brentwood saw 12 neighborhoods participate; Antioch 23. Parties ranged from a small gathering of neighbors to barbecues attracting large groups. Dignitaries such as mayors, City Council members, police chiefs and officers also made their rounds, talking with residents about safety issues and sharing ways neighbors can look out for one another.
Antioch City Councilman Wade Harper, who bounced around to various parties, loved the old-time feeling of watching neighbors barbecue, eat and talk with each other. “It warms my heart,” Harper said. “It seems like what you used to see on TV – Mayberry. Neighbors just coming out of the house and sharing a burger or sharing a Coke together. This means a lot.”
For Randy Strauser, who helped organize the Deer Ridge National Night Out party in the Brentwood neighborhood of Deer Ridge, the event drew about a dozen neighbors and some children who played happily together.
This is the second year that Strauser’s neighborhood has held a National Night Out party, and he feels a much closer bond to the people with whom he shares a street. “You have people who have lived on the same street for years and have not really gotten to know each other,” Strauser said. “It’s a great opportunity for the neighbors to meet each other and have a little fun.”
Meanwhile, in Antioch’s Lake Alhambra neighborhood, National Night Out coordinator Leroy Lui was gearing up for another big year. On a plaza overlooking the lake and a fountain, dozens of residents munched on burgers, side dishes and desserts while taking the time to get to know their neighbors. Satinder Malhi, a representative from Sen. Mark DeSaulnier’s office, stopped by to distribute fliers about child safety.
This was the second year for Summerset’s National Night Out party in Brentwood, one that organizer Mike Sloan said attracted roughly 300 residents last year. Summerset residents received information about a variety of programs, not just safety. Game tables were set up to inform residents about the various game nights the community hosts. The event also featured exhibits by the Red Hat Society, the Summerset Veterans Club and the Summerset Singers.
Brentwood Police Chief Mark Evenson and Mayor Bob Taylor agreed that gatherings such as National Night Out go a long way toward giving residents the tools to assist the police force in fighting crime.
“You can’t fight crime alone – it takes the police and the community,” Evenson said. “National Night Out is a great way of getting to know who your neighbors are, talking with local police and basically getting information about how you can make your neighborhood more secure.”
However, the Summerset event took on a more solemn tone around 5:15 p.m., when a propane tank in a Digger’s Diner catering trailer caught fire, igniting the front part of the trailer and the gas tank of its truck. According to Brentwood Police Lt. Tom Hansen, one man suffered minor injuries and was airlifted to UC Davis Medical Center.
Despite that setback, Sloan felt that the event was successful in making key connections between Summerset residents.