Fun and educational activities, with a focus on community safety, are planned for residents in area National Night Out celebrations.

Festivities on Tuesday, Aug. 5 -- where residents will once again be meeting the men and women in blue -- include a K-9 demonstration, tours of firetrucks and police cars, bounce house, music and free barbecue at City Hall. The event offers a venue for relaxed discussion in the spirit of strengthening ties between law enforcement and the local civilians they serve.

For Lt. Dan Connelly, Pleasant Hill's celebration of National Night Out is an opportunity to dispel any hesitancy that residents might have when it comes to interacting with police, and instead break down such barriers and engage as partners in the shared goal of proactively preventing crime.

"All we're trying to do is to (foster) more communication," says Connelly, who has coordinated the Pleasant Hill event for the past five years.

In Martinez, residents will be having various block parties, while others will take part in events at three larger venues: Creekside Community Church, which will have a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) trailer and disaster preparedness supplies; the lot at Les Schwab on Alhambra Avenue where 1,000 are anticipated at a car show, with a D.J. and likely root beer floats; and at the Martinez Marina, with a tentatively scheduled public safety helicopter.

"When there are no problems, I still want our (officers) to get out there and be involved in the community," says Martinez' acting police Chief Eric Ghisletta, describing the desired proactive approach.


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"It's so much more comfortable when (the officers) are approachable ... We want to interact with the public."

The nonprofit National Association of Town Watch (NATW), founded in 1981 as part of the Crime Prevention Coalition of America, started the National Night Out in August 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, and at overseas military bases and in Canada.

The National Night Out annual tradition was created as a culminating event to highlight a community's ongoing crime prevention efforts conducted throughout the year.

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

Since its inception 40 years ago in Pleasant Hill, Neighborhood Watch captain Pam Mosher has followed a simple creed of neighbors helping each other without infringing, of notifying each other if they're going out of town and then calling the police if a van out front seems suspicious, and having a high regard for local law enforcement.

Each neighborhood watch is typically small in scale, is formed without citywide dictates, aside from following "basic guidelines and common sense," and without reluctance to call the police, explains Mosher, the city's Neighborhood Watch coordinator.

"Children need to see these are the good guys," she says. "(Officers) would rather respond to 10 things that turn out to be nothing than missing something that was ... We work hand in hand."

national night out
  • IN PLEASANT HILL
    WHEN: 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 5
    WHERE: City Hall, 100 Gregory Lane
    COST: Free
    INFORMATION: Call 925-288-4637 or email swhite@ci.pleasant-hill.ca.us
  • IN MARTINEZ
    WHEN: 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 5
    WHERE: Three locations
    Creekside Community Church, 444 Fig Tree Lane
    Les Schwab Tire Center, 3800 Alhambra Ave.
    Waterfront Park, Martinez Marina, North Court Street
    COST: Free
    INFORMATION:
    925-372-3435