More than 100 block parties took place around Pierce County on Aug. 6 as part of National Night Out. A nationwide effort that gets neighbors outside to meet each other and interact with the police officers who patrol their neighborhood, the local activities were organized by a number of groups such as Metro Parks and Safe Streets. The parties are a fun way to strengthen neighborhood unity, generate more support for anti-crime efforts and heighten awareness of anti-crime and anti-drug activities.
The event at People’s Park featured music by local jazz guitarist Michael Powers, bounce houses for the kids, people busy grilling meat for their neighbors and information booths staffed by people from Sea Mar Community Health Center, Metro Parks and Sound Credit Union.
Darren Pen, who has worked as a community mobilization specialist for Safe Streets since 2005, attended 10 of the parties. “National Night Out is a powerful force. It is about having fun and getting to know your neighbor,” he remarked. “It is about looking out for one another and celebrating one another.”
He said there were 26 parties in the area he mobilizes in, with four of them being new locations. These included Blueberry Park, where live music drew hundreds of people, and Stafford Elementary School. A block watch group that formed three months ago held an event at Thompson Park, where they served fried rice and spring rolls. “The food was amazing,” Pen observed.
An event at Jennie Reed Elementary School drew several families who had just moved into the neighborhood, according to Pen. Another party at the corner of South Alaska Street and South 66th Street also drew a lot of new faces.
Pen said a safety issue that has been generating concern is an increase in drive-by shootings.