Numerous Los Altos residents will take to the streets Tuesday to fight crime – by throwing neighborhood block parties.
According to Josh Cottrell, Los Altos Police Department community services officer, at least 15 registered events are scheduled to mark the city’s 30th annual National Night Out. The national anticrime program aims to spread awareness, build community and strengthen relationships between residents and law enforcement. More than 1 million people in 9,700 communities in all 50 states participated last year.
“This is a great event for community building,” said Cottrell, who noted that this year’s tally of Los Altos neighborhood events is up slightly from last year’s, when residents collectively hosted 12 neighborhood parties. “In many cases, people meet with the police on some of the worst days of their lives. In this case, however, it’s a collaboration to fight crime.”
Los Altos Police Chief Tuck Younis noted that National Night Out enables residents to become more familiar with individual officers and learn how to establish neighborhood watch networks. The most common neighborhood events include potlucks, ice cream socials, barbecues and swim parties.
“The community is more likely to engage us if they know us on a more personal level,” Younis said. “National Night Out is the pinnacle of what we want to achieve as a community policing program.”
The chief explained that the department’s 30-plus sworn officers, dispatchers and administrative personnel will visit the various neighborhood events, introducing themselves to residents and addressing any questions to establish rapport. The goal, he said, is to build a community that serves as a willing partner in reporting crimes.
“We’re fortunate that we have a strong relationship with the public,” Younis said. “They’re the first ones to call when they see something suspicious, which is why we’re such a safe community. (National Night Out) just emphasizes those relationships.”
Younis added that the event also offers children an opportunity to meet and learn more about their local police department.
“(Children) need to know that officers are there to assist and protect them,” he said. “When we’re out of our patrol cars and we’re having some ice cream (at National Night Out) with them, they start to look at us in a completely different light.”
Younis said the city has eliminated its block-party permit fee, typically waived for the event, in an effort to encourage more residents to host events that build community and to participate in events such as National Night Out. Despite the fee waiver, residents are still required to file a permit application with the police department.
The registration deadline to host a National Night Out event has been extended to Monday for those interested in organizing a neighborhood event.