More than 30 neighborhood parties were held across Elk Grove on Aug. 6 during the annual National Night Out – an event that invites residents to know their neighbors and to casually meet law enforcement officers and firefighters.
Partiers are also encouraged to join neighborhood watch groups, and to discuss local crime issues with police and city officials.
Elk Grove Police Chief Bryan Noblett told the Citizen that he felt a “little melancholy” before visiting these parties. He is retiring as police chief on Aug. 30, but he was pleased that he still had a chance to visit the National Night Out parties.
“This night typifies the relationship we have with the community every night – this is really how it plays out every day,” Noblett said. “It’s just a fun night for us.”
Noblett’s successor as police chief has not been announced, as of press time.
Elk Grove police officers and city volunteers gathered for a briefing at the Elk Grove City Council Chambers before they visited parties for several hours.
City ambassadors also visited the parties to share information on city and police services.
“We are the bridge between the community and the police department,” Ambassador Satish Shah said.
Elk Grove police spokesperson Jason Jimenez said that he enjoys the low-key interactions between the police and residents on National Night Out.
“When people call us or interact with is, it’s usually the worst time of their lives at that point,” he said. “With opportunities like these, where they’re not calling us or are in need of police services, the interaction is all positive.”
Parties ranged from small potlucks held at garages and parks to a large gathering of a hundred people at the Glenbrooke senior community’s clubhouse.
Mary Weatherall, a Glenbrooke neighborhood watch coordinator, said that her large watch group has 50 block captains.
“All of these folks know each other and we make sure they know each other so we don’t have a lot of problems,” she said.
Weatherall said there were three burglaries in her neighborhood, and all of the suspects were arrested. There was a home burglary case where investigators tracked down the thief via DNA evidence found in a towel, she said. Weatherall said that her neighborhood generally had little crime in the past dozen years that she lived there.
During National Night Out, a “How to Train Your Dragon” movie was screened on an enormous, inflatable screen at Feickert Park.
Neighbor and Keller Williams realtor John Morales, known as “Johnny from the Block,” hosted that party where free popcorn and pizza was served to families. He mentioned to the Citizen that he has a “49ers house” before Jimenez quipped, “You should change it to (Oakland Raiders colors) silver and black.”
Morales said that he admires how neighbors form relationships at National Night Out parties.
“’I constantly hear people say, ‘You’re the one that lives right here!’ he said. “I love that.”
Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly said that he visited six parties before arriving at a front yard party in the Camden neighborhood by dusk. He said that he heard from residents who desire more shopping and dining options in Elk Grove.
“(They said) ‘We wish we could have more things here, things that would keep us in Elk Grove as opposed to spending money outside Elk Grove,” Ly said.
Overall, he said that feedback from community members has been positive that night.
“That’s always nice to hear,” Ly said.
Jimenez and the Citizen visited the Wisteria Place Neighborhood Watch group’s party at Aspen Grove Lane. A murder took place near that street two years ago when a homeowner was fatally shot at his driveway on Spring Flower Drive.
Watch group members said that their neighborhood has not recently experienced crime. Franco Salluce believes that his neighbors’ heavy involvement in neighborhood watch may have deterred crime.
Fellow watch member Christine Thorntona said they cannot be complacent.
“I don’t like there to be a false sense of security,” she said. “We still have to be diligent; we still have to have eyes on the neighborhood so that people don’t think they can come in and take advantage of the community.”