Hundreds -- if not more -- San Ramon Valley residents came out to parties all across Danville and San Ramon on Tuesday night to generate support for anti-crime awareness and to celebrate community, for the National Night Out.
The 35th annual National Night Out is a country-wide effort to reduce crime and support anti-crime programs, such as neighborhood watch organizations, but on a local level the event aims to also bring communities closer with the police officers that serve their areas.
"Oftentimes in government you see people contacting the government under stress or distress, particularly when you are contacting the police," Mayor Newell Arnerich said at a Danville party. "So this is sort of a fun family event where you can get to know people, without having the negative aspects you might have from contacting the police with an issue."
This year National Night Out involved 16,500 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases around the world. In total over 38.5 million people are estimated to have participated.
Celebrated with neighborhood block parties -- San Ramon had over 30 registered parties participate and Danville at least 16 -- the event brings together neighbors and local police as part of an effort to curtail crime.
"This is our annual event and celebration, it brings together our community and reinforces neighborhood watch and letting our neighbors get to know one another in a social setting," Danville party host Emily Montgomery said. "Last year it was like five different houses throughout the neighborhood and this year we've decided to do one big party. So it feels nice having everyone together like this."
Parties ranged from potlucks and barbecues to ice cream socials and fundraisers. Montgomery and her fellow host Maggie Kirkendall hosted an ice cream social to raise money for Danville Police Department's K-9 Aik, who is recovering from several surgeries from stomach ulcers.
K-9 officers and their furry partners were out in force Tuesday night, heading to parties and hanging out with residents, old and young alike.
"Nowadays it's important to interact with the community, we don’t want people to just think of us as patrol cars driving by," K-9 officer Rick Gonzalez, who attended three San Ramon parties with his canine partner Blix. "It's a matter of hanging out with the residents and getting to know who they are and we can help address their concerns all the better."
National Night Out may be a good opportunity for the community to bond, both with their neighbors and police, but is also an opportunity for police to way grow the number of people looking out for one another, said DPD Chief Allan Shields.
Shields said that the more comfortable a citizen is with their local police department, the more likely they are to report a crime or concern, serious or otherwise.
"We want to try and find as many ways as possible to connect with the community so that they feel comfortable coming to us with reports of crimes, problems or just everyday things," Shields said. "We want to tell the bad guys, 'hey you don't have 30 cops looking out for you, you have 43,000 people looking out for you.'"