By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Neighbors gather for block parties to build relationships to fight crime
Sydney Anderson and Kevin Helmbold grill up some hot dogs Tuesday night in Lathrop for the Mingo Way block party celebrating National Night Out.

In a community in which many people commute an hour or more to get to work in the San Francisco Bay Area, the idea of a traditional neighborhood tends to fade away. 

But National Night Out – which drew hundreds of residents across Lathrop out of their homes Tuesday night and into the warm summer night for block parties and community gatherings – is bringing the idea of neighbors looking out for one another back.

“Almost everybody on this street commutes, but this is still a chance for all of us to get together and for those of us who have been here for a long time to get to know the new neighbors that live here,” said Michele Anderson, who has hosted a block party at her Mingo Way home for the last three years, and participated with her neighbors for going on two decades. “When you get to know the people that live near you, you know what to look out for – sometimes if I see the UPS truck come and I know they aren’t home, I’ll grab their package and bring it over when they get home. 

“Those are the kinds of things that come out of events like this.”

All across America on Tuesday homeowners took to the front yards and fired up the barbecues in the name of building stronger neighborhoods and communities and stamping out crime. 

In River Islands, that meant getting as many of the homeowners as possible down to Michael Vega Park where they enjoyed hot dogs, balloon animals, and the true sense of community that the master planned development is proud of fostering. 

“I think this particular community is reminiscent of an era long gone by – you can see it at events like this where everybody knows everybody else, and they’re out here together to celebrate that,” said River Islands Events Director Yvonne Sampson. “Events like this bring everybody together, and it really shows the sense of community here at River Islands, and how much the residents enjoy getting to know one another.”

Billed as a community-building campaign that helps foster a relationship between neighbors and between the residents and the police officers that serve their communities, Lathrop’s National Night Out also serves as an opportunity for law enforcement to create contacts in the community that assist when carrying out their sworn duties. 

According to Lathrop Police Services’ Community Resource Officer Jefferson Dominguez, that means getting to know people on a personal level rather than a professional one, so that when officers need to respond to a call or intervene in a situation, their previous commitment to the community humanizes them and shows the people they may encounter that they are more than just the badge or the gun they happen to be wearing at the time. 

“A lot of times as law enforcement officers we see people when they’re having a bad day, and events like this show everybody that the job isn’t always about the bad things,” Dominguez said. “National Night Out brings neighbors together so that they can look out for each other, but it also brings the community together and bridged the gap with law enforcement so we know who we’re out there protecting, and they know who we are when they see us on the street.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.