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National Night Out participation slips on Lodi’s Eastside

Local leaders concerned opportunities to curb crime are being missed

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Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2013 12:00 am

Neighborhoods throughout Lodi broke bread and strengthened ties with city and public safety officials during Tuesday evening’s National Night Out. But on Lodi’s Eastside, parties were scarce.

Some say budget cuts have caused participation to slip throughout the city.

But many city officials believe Tuesday’s event missed an opportunity to bolster crime prevention awareness where the crime rate is highest.

“It’s a concern I have,” Lodi Police Chief Mark Helms said. “We need to do more to engage that part of the community due to the discrepancy in crime.”

Lodi residents mingled Tuesday and enjoyed hot dogs, hamburgers and desserts. And when police officers, firefighters and city officials — who attended every party — arrived, citizens had the opportunity to discuss all aspects of crime in their community.

At Casa de Lodi, a mobile home park in the 800 block of East Turner Road, the nearly 60 residents in attendance fired questions concerning noise issues and nearby speeders at Lodi Police Lt. David Griffin.

At a home on the 1800 block of Edgewood Drive, police officers distributed pamphlets containing crime statistics and tips for keeping the neighborhood safe.

And with every party came the chance for residents to meet one another and strengthen their Neighborhood Watch groups.

“It’s about getting to know your neighbors,” Lodi Fire Chief Larry Rooney said. “It’s getting to know your community. We can only do so much in public safety. So helping one another and helping your neighbors is what community is all about.”

In Lodi, 67 parties reaped the benefits of this once-a-year event. But of those neighborhood block parties, 57 were held on Lodi’s west side, while only 10 were held on the Eastside.

In addition, Lodi is separated into five districts — two on the west side and three on the Eastside. There were no National Night Out events held in the district with the highest crime rate, which is on the Eastside of town and also Lodi’s smallest district.

Lodi Mayor Alan Nakanishi said it was discouraging to see the lack of participation from the Eastside of town during Tuesday’s event.

“I’ve been trying to encourage the Eastside to get Neighborhood Watch,” he said. “What can we do? All we can do is ask the people on the Eastside and try to support them. You look at different areas and they need to be involved. But it’s also hard for them to participate.”

JoAnne Mounce, a councilwoman and Eastside resident, said Tuesday’s participation doesn’t reflect the Eastside’s unity.

Prior to 2008, when Lodi hosted more than 100 parties almost every year, residents on the Eastside were always active participants. But since budget cuts forced the Lodi Police Department to reduce funding for the event — and even cancel National Night Out in 2009 — parties have reduced not only on the Eastside but throughout the city.

“If you have the manpower to put into community-oriented police, then that will strengthen the sense of community and Neighborhood Watch,” Mounce said. “You are seeing the effects of budget cuts during the last few years. But you’re going to see an increase in participation in years to come.”

Others still say the Eastside’s low participation is a problem.

Helms is devising solutions and wants to address the Eastside’s involvement before next year’s National Night Out.

He said that solving the problem doesn’t necessarily mean more parties, but one or two large neighborhood gatherings.

“I would really like to see that part of the community more engaged next year,” he said.

But despite the divided involvement, Helms said Tuesday’s event was successful.

“We had just as many events in Lodi, a city of 67,000 people, as did Stockton and Sacramento,” he said. “That’s pretty impressive and commendable for the community.”

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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