By Hazel Ford–
More than a dozen neighborhoods in Citrus Heights celebrated National Night Out on Tuesday, with barbecues, ice cream socials, and even a small parade. The annual event is held around the country on the first Tuesday in August, with the goal of bringing neighbors and police together in the common cause of fighting crime.
Karen Bearman, a 27-year resident of Citrus Heights, organized a barbecue and potluck in her Miravale Court neighborhood on Tuesday night. Welcoming neighbors, police, and Councilman Albert Fox, she told The Sentinel she wanted to see everyone on the court get together to chat and enjoy dinner — though temperatures over 105 degrees posed some difficulties in bringing neighbors outdoors.
Bearman said the best way to make a community better is to “know your neighbor and look out for your neighbor,” which she says her watch group helps accomplish. Located in the western portion of the city near Tupelo Drive, Miravale Court is organized into a neighborhood watch group that focuses on community and children.
“We watch out for our kids,” she said. “Together, we light this court up.”
Meanwhile, Kara Richey and her neighbors were busy preparing their ice cream social for 50 to 60 people at Twin Creeks Park on Starflower Drive. Richey, who runs the area’s neighborhood watch, told The Sentinel participation in National Night Out and watch groups is important for residential safety.
“I realized that I had lived here for five years, and I didn’t know anyone — not even my next door neighbor,” said Richey, sharing her experience starting up a neighborhood watch group. In order to learn more about her community and bring neighbors together, she launched a Facebook page and organized a block party that has now become an annual tradition.
Over on Indian River Drive off Greenback Lane, a small parade attracted approximately 100 residents, including at least one city council member and a group of police officers, along with catered treats from Rich’s Ice Cream.
Susan Jenkins, who organized the parade with the help of a committee, told The Sentinel she was glad to see the neighborhood getting together to support local police and meeting other neighbors in the area. She serves as the communications coordinator for the Greenback Wood neighborhood watch group, which has been operating for about 10 years and encompasses 320 homes in the Greenback Wood area.
When asked about the importance of National Night Out and the area’s neighborhood watch, resident Jim Markham, who helped plan the parade, said he saw it as a way to “get the community back.”
Citrus Heights Police Lt. Jason Russo said more than three dozen police officers and staff made an effort to visit each neighborhood event held in the city Tuesday night and said police embraced the opportunity to build relationships with community members. He said neighborhood watch groups, events like National Night Out, and neighborhood associations are “crucial to successfully combating crime.”
The city currently has 68 different neighborhood watch groups. Police said those interested in forming a neighborhood watch group can find several brochures on the police department’s web page and can also contact Larissa Wasilevsky, the department’s watch coordinator, at 916-727-5879 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Night Out began in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch, and now involves over 38 million people across the United States and Canada, according to organizers.