SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - Thousands of block parties took place across the country on Tuesday for National Night Out and one party in West Oakland gathered hundreds of people.
The annual event, held on the first Tuesday of August, is a national effort to bring communities together to talk about way to improve neighborhood safety.
Marilyn Washington Harris, Director of Programs for Acorn Housing, helped organize the block party near the corner of Adeline and 8th streets. She would like to see community policing improve.
“If the neighborhood knows who their police officers are I think things would be a whole lot better because then the officer can say, ‘We’ll that’s little Johnny, his mother is so and so, and let him come here I’ll take him home.’ That’s the difference than when an officer comes in and sees a 6’2 young man where he may think he’s 20 or 25 when he’s only 16.”
Several Oakland police officers interacted with children at the event.
“For kids, it’s great that they see us human, dancing, having a good time, eating, and it’s also good for us to see them having a good time as well,” Marco Marquez with the Oakland Police Department said.
A few blocks away, the Night Out for Safety and Liberation is an alternative to National Night Out. Tash Nguyen with the Ella Baker Center said the event is a way to take the conversation beyond interactions with police officers.
“Solving problems that have to do with law enforcement actually don’t require individual conversations, they require systemic changes,” she said.
She called it an opportunity to have a broader talk about things that keep communities healthy.
“The things that keep us safe are access to housing, a living wage job, quality education, clean water,” she said.
Marquez said the outdoor events build unity and that is the first defense against crime.
“We’re breaking bread,” he said. “We’re having food, we’re having a meal together and hopefully that opens up a dialogue to where we get to know each other and we can bring awareness on how to prevent crimes in our neighborhoods.”
National Night Out is typically held the first Tuesday in August each year. For more information visit natw.org or check your city's website for local events.