Bay Area communities come together for National Night Out

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Hundreds of block parties were held across the Bay Area Tuesday evening, for the annual National Night Out, an annual community event that aims to put first responders on a first name basis with the people they serve. 

In Richmond , parties were held at 27 locations, and the chief stopped at each one.  

"It's always good when police officers interact with communities in non-enforcement roles, no emergency, no crisis, " Chief Allwyn Brown told KTVU, " and it really reinforces what we're trying to build on here, which is relationships." 

Nationwide last year, 38 million people in 16,000 communities held NNO parties, always the first Tuesday in August, promoting neighborhood camaraderie and closer police relations.  

In Oakland, an alternative event has also taken hold the past five years, the "Night Out for Safety and Liberation". 

"We're not anti-police, we're just here to have a broader conversation," organizer Tash Nguyen told KTVU, as more than 100 people enjoyed a buffet dinner, massage table, music, and dance.

Advice was also offered on jobs, education, and health, which organizers believe are important to safety. There was no law enforcement presence at the venue. 

"This is about the community and how we make each other feel safe, instead of how the police or authority figures come in and make us feel safe," said Katrina Griffith, of San Francisco. 

Griffith was among those at a table, writing postcard messages to prison inmates. 

"I like the idea of our  community taking responsibility for each other," she said. 

Nguyen, from the Ella Baker Human Rights Center, was more blunt.

"I think a lot of people don't feel safe talking to the police," she declared, "especially folks who are black and brown, and are over-criminalized by the police."

At most NNO parties, police and fire first responders are welcomed, with children particularly enthralled by the chance to sit on a motorcycle or in a fire engine.  

At Bart, in its seventh year celebrating National Night Out, the challenge was getting busy passengers to stop long enough to greet officers, and visit the booths.

"Making a community out of people who are mobile is very difficult, " admitted Bart Deputy CHief Jeffrey Jennings, at the El Cerrito Plaza station, as commuters hurried  off trains.   

"It's pretty great to have free stuff, " smiled ten year old Nia Bell of Albany, who paused with her dad on their way home from San Francisco. 

"It's good to find out about the police items and the safety stuff," added Craig Bell.

"I'm a child of the 60's and 70's, and it's very important from my experience that law enforcement and the community have a good relationship and know one another well."

Deputy Chief Jennings said most of the questions and comments he heard centered on Bart police under -staffing and safety.

"Well the complaint is the fear of crime and wanting to see more cops on or about the trains, that's the biggest thing I've heard from people."  

 

  National Night Out has its origins in early neighborhood watch programs and became a national effort in 1984, growing in size and popularity ever since. 

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