By Brandon HENSLEY, Jackie HOUCHIN, Maddy PUMILIA and Charly SHELTON
Several foothill neighborhoods either hosted or attended Tuesday night’s National Night Out – NNO – festivities.
The event started in 1984 and has grown to 37 million people participating in 15,110 communities across the United States. It’s a way to fight crime while getting to know local law enforcement agencies. NNO is especially beneficial for children as the safety groups help teach children tips for disaster preparation or local emergencies.
On Tuesday several locations across the foothill community hosted events. One was held at the parking lot at the Ralphs Marketplace in the 2600 block of Foothill Boulevard. There were several booths set up by civic organizations including Prom Plus, CV Sheriffs, Montrose Search and Rescue Team and Boy Scouts of America. There was a constant flow of citizens coming through the parking lot to see what information was available. Two food trucks were parked at the curb providing food and drink for sale.
North of Foothill on Franklin Street, residents held their inaugural NNO event.
“We found out about NNO through Deputy [Jorge] Valdivia when he came to talk to our street about starting a neighborhood watch,” said organizer Kristina Evans. “We chose to host our own event because NNO encourages all neighborhoods to participate. The more individual streets participate the more the word gets out.”
There were approximately 10 houses on the street that took part with about 22 adults and 20 kids attending. The neighbors held a potluck and barbecue. The kids had a water gun fights, played with bubbles and jumped in a bounce house. The adults talked about community safety and in general just celebrated their time together. Stopping by was Capt. Dave Silversparre of the CV Sheriff’s Station. He talked about why NNO is so important to the community. Also visiting was Paul Dutton of CERT who shared information about the organization and the upcoming classes being offered in October, encouraging us all to be prepared for emergencies.
“We are a very blessed community because of the strong support we receive from men like Cap. Silversparre, Deputy Valdivia, and Mr. Dutton,” said Evans. “It’s our job as a community to be their eyes an ears.”
The Sycamore Woods community off La Crescenta Avenue held its second annual National Night Out. Around 100 people walked an eight-block route, which started on Cloud Avenue and ended at the Twelve Oaks Lodge on Sycamore Avenue, where members of the Glendale Police Department spoke and gourmet dessert was available, not to mention over 100 raffle prizes.
There are several designated captains for each block of Sycamore Woods, and then there’s the area captain, and that is Julia Leeper.
“Part of the function on National Night Out is encouraging people to participate in the community and in neighborhood watch,” said Leeper, who was lived on Sycamore for over 30 years.
Leeper also started the neighborhood watch in her area 20 years ago. Glendale officer Matt Zakarian calls her a “neighborhood leader.”
Leeper helps train other potential block captains with Glendale Police at the Sparr Heights Community Center.
“For the city, it’s really helpful for them to have community participation,” she said.
Leeper said she has everyone’s email in the area and that an online connection has now been made for the community, so if someone hears or sees a disturbance, they can communicate via a quick email.
“I think we have one of the strongest neighborhood watches in the city,” she said, and recalled an incident six months ago when a neighbor called the police when he noticed someone else’s car being broken into after midnight.
National Night Out is “an opportunity for you to get to know your neighbors, and for you to know your local police officers and firefighters that work your area,” said Glendale Police Chief Ron Depompa.
He told the crowd gathered at Twelve Oaks that Crescenta Valley is a safer place when the community steps up, which eases things for the police.
“That sixth sense is so valuable to us in helping prevent crime,” he said.
In La Cañada, the Sheriff’s Department, Fire Department, Disaster Communication, Montrose Search and Rescue Team and the Sheriff’s Explorers met with the community at the Vons Parking Lot. The event was held at the Vons parking lot to attract the foot traffic from Vons, TJ Maxx and Rite Aid.
Deputy Jorge Valdivia talked about the necessity for people to get involved with law enforcement.
“We rely on [the community] to be good witnesses. [The community] needs to get involved. And for the most part, they do,” he said.
He said that ways to be involved included not being afraid to call 911, even for something that may be minor, joining a neighborhood watch group and caring.
“It’s to encourage people to go outside and socialize with the community,” added Sgt. Mark Slater of the CV Sheriff’s Station.
Safety information pamphlets were passed out, little kids were fingerprinted and equipment demonstrations were given. Youngsters could explore both a police car and a fire truck. Montrose Search and Rescue Team brought their truck and let kids and adults try on all of their tools.
“I think it’s cool how they help everybody,” said Isabel Arya, 9, while she was dressed in a Montrose Search and Rescue Team hat.
Kids dipped their fingers in ink and rolled them on cards to make a permanent record of their fingerprints. The cards were given to the parents, so in case of an emergency, it would help the police find the missing child.
Carrie Ross took her 6-year-old son, Benji, to get fingerprinted.
“He got left at the park by his camp. He knew his phone number and I went and got him. Things happen. For safety, that’s why we [got him fingerprinted],” Ross explained. “It’s super important to teach your kid their phone number.”
The Explorers were in charge of putting ink on the children and handing out stickers and 911 cards to children. The Explorers, aged high school to 21, perform non-hazardous police work like getting to know the community and writing crime reports. They also go on ride alongs. In addition, they compete in scenario competitions. It’s a chance for youth to learn whether or not they want to have a career in law enforcement.
“We do whatever we can to help this community,” said Christian Herrera, sergeant of Crescenta Valley Explorer Post 514.
Disaster Communication educated people on their activities, which provide auxiliary communication in case primary communication goes down or is overloaded. They use a ham radio, which has a range of frequencies. They are also involved with the Great Shakeout.
“We’re just here to explain what we are doing,” said Gary Jaegers of Disaster Communication. “We support emergency service any way they need us.”
Heading west, the Stonehurst Neighborhood Watch and Foothill Trails Neighborhood Council joined the nation-wide event by hosting their annual NNO barbecue in the heart of Shadow Hills.
Locals in Shadow Hills were drawn to the event by the savory aroma of chicken and beef tri tip sizzling on huge outdoor grills, while neighbors from Sun Valley, La Tuna Canyon and Lake View Terrace remembered Phil Tabbi’s Valley-wide reputation for mouth-watering barbecues and came in droves.
Meat, ice cold sodas and bottled water were provided free. Picnickers brought their own chairs, blankets, pot luck-style side dishes and big appetites. Plates piled high; neighbors greeted each other with laughter and caught up on the news.
The festivities paused respectfully when members of the Verdugo Hills High School Jr. ROTC presented the colors and Cile Borman led the singing the National Anthem. Mary Benson introduced Councilman Paul Krekorian who honored the youth with Certificates of Appreciation.
Krekorian also thanked the men and women of the LAPD saying, “Here in the Foothill Division, crime is plummeting.”
He acknowledged several officers present, but emphasized, “It’s not just the job of the police. It’s our job as well. Neighborhood Watch groups lend a hand to the police. You are their eyes and ears..
Benson then presented a care basket to newly reassigned Foothill Division Capt. Sean Malinowski. It contained snacks, Pepto-Bismol and several joke items for the station.
Malinowski took the opportunity to praise his officers.
“I’m a newcomer, I know crime analysis, but these men and women know the people here in the foothills. Often they can identify the person or gang involved just by looking at the details of the crime.”
He told of how a three-hour old Honda theft was stopped and the guilty party arrested after his lead officers identified the work of the Sunland Boys gang and knew where they operated.
Benson then acknowledged and thanked other community leaders present including Vicki Burch, president of the Community Police Advisory Board and Kevin Davis, outreach chairman for the Foothill Trails Neighborhood Council.
Davis urged everyone present to attend the Neighborhood Councils in their area.
“Use them as a first step to get involved in your community,” Davis said. “When neighbors know each other, they watch out for each other and crime decreases.”
Kristina Evans contributed to this story.