A night of live music in downtown Concord will offer a crowd-pleasing, lyrical backdrop to showcase a collaborative and ongoing commitment by residents, merchants and law enforcement to keep their community safe.

Festivities on Tuesday, Aug. 5, at Todos Santos Plaza -- where visitors will once again be meeting the men and women in blue -- offer a venue for relaxed discussion in the spirit of strengthening ties between law enforcement and the local civilians they serve.

"The importance of developing those relationships is huge," says Lt. Ivan Menchaca, whose own Concord boyhood, graduation from Clayton Valley High School and attendance at Diablo Valley College cemented his ties to the community where he has worked for 24 years.

He debunks often-ingrained myths about police officers that he says are perpetuated by television cop shows and misguided remarks.

"It's been a building process," says Menchaca, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, and whose beat is primarily in the Monument Corridor. "You can only (communicate with) so many people at a time."

At the Concord National Night Out event, there will be music starting at 6:30 p.m., along with a K-9 demonstration by the Concord Police Department.

At 8 p.m., people can meander around the plaza and listen to myriad musical styles at various smaller outdoor locations as residents "symbolically take back the streets," according to a news release.


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Meanwhile, Clayton's small-town atmosphere is also conducive when it comes to fostering that sought-after rapport between police and residents.

Police Chief Chris Thorsen refers to how residents know the 11 sworn officers by name, and rather than a downtown National Night Out event, they opt to break bread with police at various neighborhood barbecues.

"The best crime prevention strategy is knowing your neighbors, having each other's cell phone numbers," Thorsen says. "It's really about looking out for one another. It used to just be called being neighborly. Now we have a title for it."

The nonprofit National Association of Town Watch, founded in 1981 as part of the Crime Prevention Coalition of America, started National Night Out in 1984, with an estimated 2.5 million people in 400 communities in the United States participating.

It has burgeoned into a movement involving approximately 37.8 million people in all 50 states, at overseas military bases and in Canada.

The National Night Out annual tradition was created to highlight a community's ongoing crime prevention efforts.

Through NATW's Project 365 program, local crime prevention advocates are encouraged to identify parks that may susceptible to criminal activity -- including being potential locales for underage drinking or drug use -- to conduct cleanup campaigns for blighted areas, and to expand existing neighborhood watch efforts.

Once again, Clayton City Councilwoman Julie Pierce will host her neighborhood's National Night Out event, passing out information about emergency preparedness and disaster response.

The gathering is one of several throughout the year when neighbors catch up, she says, "what's changed, who's going off to college ... finding out whether someone needs a hand up."

And, Pierce will offer a gathering spot for residents to meet their new police officers, part of the local law enforcement contingent that she considers an integral part of the community.

"It's that familiarity, knowing who our officers are, that makes a big difference," she says.

if you go
WHAT: National Night Out
WHEN: 6:30-9:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 5
WHERE: Todos Santos Plaza, Willow Pass Road at Grant Street, downtown Concord
COST: Free
INFORMATION: 925-671-3464