The National Night Out campaign on Aug. 7 attracted hundreds of local residents in both Patterson and Grayson, allowing them to mingle with local law enforcement agents and firefighters and learn more about community resources.
The Back-to-School Block Party and Safety Fair this past weekend provided further opportunities for community members to learn about local resources and gave them a chance to get their children fingerprinted.
While it’s important to ask what difference such efforts truly make, particularly when the city of Patterson alone budgeted nearly $3,000 on overtime and fuel costs for National Night Out, the positive outcome in Patterson and Grayson seems clear.
The relationships with residents that are forged during National Night Out, for instance, can pay dividends later on when police respond to incidents on the street, according to Chief Tori Hughes and a couple of deputies who were at the event.
It was particularly nice to see police and firefighters make an appearance at the Patterson Skate Park at the prompting of Councilwoman Annette Smith, getting a chance to watch skateboarders in action and mingle with a few folks hanging out there.
In the town of Grayson, where many people were scared to report crimes a year ago, last year’s National Night Out gathering prompted the creation of a Neighborhood Watch.
Certainly, the National Night Out program could benefit from some small changes. Does it really make sense to fly the sheriff from place to place in a helicopter even as the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department deals with drastic funding cuts?
At the same time, both National Night Out and the safety fair — combined this year with a community back-to-school celebration for the first time — are more than feel-good pap. Both events build relationships and empower residents with knowledge to improve their own safety.
In particular, the Safety Fair, now in its second year, equipped residents with information about how to protect children from criminals and the means to help track
them down if they are kidnapped.
If individuals take the initiative to build on such events by establishing Neighborhood Watch programs and by being more alert to their surroundings, the community can only benefit.