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Partying to fight crime tonight

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POSTED August 6, 2013 1:31 a.m.

The barbecue sizzles. Kids dart around the lawn. Ice chills a chest full of soda.

It sounds like the perfect summer afternoon. But it serves a dual, if not easily seen, purpose.

Keeping neighborhoods safe.

In the day-and-age when people drive-further to work even longer hours, spending time with neighbors is often a back-burner affair. A casual wave. A friendly hello.

That sort of an environment also makes it easier for somebody to slip down the street undetected – whether it’s to smash the window and grab the purse of a car parked in a driveway, or slip through the backdoor of a home when somebody’s away.

Tonight, police hope, all of that ends.

At parties throughout Manteca, Lathrop and Weston Ranch, people and neighbors will get together tonight with only one goal: to build the neighborhood bonds heighten crime awareness. Local fire crews will stop in and say hello. Police officers and sheriff’s deputies as well.

It’s the 30th year since the National Association of Town Watch first started a coast-to-coast program aimed at fighting for stronger neighborhoods and safer streets.

Until he moved into a home in Northwest Manteca with his family last year, John Cortez said he never really thought much about the block party concept. It was always something reserved for those idealized communities he never really felt a part of.

But he has kids now. Making sure that has family is safe is his top priority.

“It makes a lot of sense when you finally start to see the people in your neighborhood. Your first concern is about your family, but you want your neighbors to be safe too,” Cortez said. “I like that National Night Out promotes that. You don’t always get the chance to stop during the middle of the week.”

Here are a few of the National Night Out happenings:

•Manteca Block Parties – Neighborhoods from throughout the community register with the Manteca Police Department to hold sanctioned parties that range from a few households getting together on the lawn to a legitimate block party. Manteca Police and Fire Department officials make pit stops around town.

•Lathrop’s Community Gathering – While block parties are still the standard, the City of Lathrop welcomes residents to Lathrop City Hall for an evening of fun and food. The Lathrop-Manteca Fire Department, Lathrop Police Department and Lathrop City Hall all cooperatively work together to make the event possible.

•Ripon’s Annual Community Bash – As if Ripon needs a reason to get together. The Ripon Community Center, on Fourth Street, will once again be jumping with hundreds of people uniting to fight crime and promote unity. The Ripon Police Department organizes the event.

All parties are estimated to begin at 6 p.m.

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