Lathrop Police Chief James Hood has a sense of humor.
On Tuesday, when his entire department was out mingling with Lathrop residents at block parties across the city for National Night Out – where neighbors come together to get to know one another and take a stand against crime – Hood made sure that wherever he ended up, he had something special to bring that would put a smile on the face of those he came in contact with.
As cliché as it sounds, Hood brought doughnuts.
“Everybody expects cops to bring doughnuts, right?” Hood said with a laugh. “I wanted to make sure that we brought something that was fun and unique because this is an event that’s important for people getting out and talking with one another, and this is a good conversation starter.”
And therein lies the magic of Hood’s self-deprecating gift – knowing that it would break the ice on the one night where people are supposed to talk with one another in order to build strong community bonds for the sake of uniting against crime.
While the heat took its toll on the turnout of some of the usual get-togethers – the first that Hood visited ended up being canceled – it still led to a strong turnout at large community gatherings like the one held in River Islands, and even some of the smaller neighborhood gatherings.
When people know their neighbors, Hood said, they’re more likely to spot somebody who is suspicious, and the benefit of having the police and fire departments making the rounds with city officials and city staff means that the public gets the chance to know who they’re calling and who is going to respond when they do notice something that is out of place.
It’s all part of bridging that gap, and while the mercury was still around 100 degrees at 6 p.m. when the parties started across Lathrop, Hood said he was impressed with the dedicated residents who came out.
“It’s amazing to see all of the different departments and all of the first responders in this city out here tonight getting to know the people that they serve,” Hood said. “And the community is amazing for coming out even in this heat and making this event what it is – people getting out and talking to one another and forging those relationships that make a difference.”
On the opposite side of I-5, Michele Anderson was just ramping up her festivities at 8 p.m. when the sun finally started to break and the Delta breeze began offering some solace from the scorching summer temperatures – something that she and her fellow residents on Mingo Way braved for hours in order to keep the tradition they began last year alive.
And Anderson is no stranger to getting people together in the name of supporting law enforcement and first responders and helping build a sense of community that will make their jobs protecting the growing City of Lathrop even easier.
Next month Anderson will be holding her second annual rally at Valverde Park to show support for first responders, but Tuesday was a chance, she said, for friends from throughout the city to come together and break bread and build the same bonds she hopes to strengthen in September.
“We have a lot of neighbors that are Bay Area commuters and they don’t get the chance to come and mingle very much,” Anderson said. “This is a chance to meet them and to bring friends together and enjoy a meal together.
“It’s something that we look forward to.”
Of 15 registered block parties, only 13 were active in Lathrop on Tuesday. Two were cancelled due to the temperatures.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.