By Jason KUROSU
Two weeks after National Night Out, held this year on Aug. 7 as a nationwide event intended to bring together members of the community to coordinate with each other to prevent neighborhood crime, the Glendale Police Department held a meeting at GPD headquarters to thank those who organized NNO events in their neighborhoods.
Sgt. John Gilkerson, who has been coordinating NNO in the Glendale area since 2008, recounted how the event has expanded year by year from one event in 2008 to 50 in 2012.
Gilkerson addressed what he estimated as about 75% of the neighborhood residents who helped coordinate NNO, saying, “The old cliché about you being our eyes and ears is true. We try to be the experts, but you’re truly the experts on your block.”
Plenty of free food was on hand as well as and a slideshow of photos from the various NNO events across Glendale, showcasing the many different ways neighbors organized with barbeques, games, movies and even fire dancers in one instance.
The police held a question and answer segment, gauging how each neighborhood’s experience went. Varying numbers of attendance were reported, with some saying that only about 10 to 15 people came out, while others reported around 100 people flocking to their NNO. The reasons for the turnouts appeared to be just as varying, but many of the residents felt that the means of communicating with neighbors led to differing results, for example that face to face contact worked much better than handing out flyers.
Overall, the representation by law enforcement was appreciated by the residents, a challenge that Gilkerson had to manage, ensuring that officers visited each of the 50 sites throughout the day.
“It was a positive experience for our officers as well,” said Gilkerson. “They like being able to interact with people who are actually happy to see them for a change.”
Glendale Police Chief Ron De Pompa also addressed the audience.
“With [prison] realignment, and all those fellas coming back to L.A. County, we had a rash of residential burglaries that occurred. We were able to extinguish that trend in very short order by making some key arrests. Every one of those was a result of neighbors watching out for neighbors,” said De Pompa. “This isn’t just a once a year event for a time to celebrate or party. It really is a means to an end. It mobilizes our community and helps us do our job.”
Gilkerson noted that in previous years, planning and meetings for National Night Out started about five to six months before the actual event and that things should proceed the same way next year, with initial planning meetings starting sometime in March of 2013.