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Lodi neighborhoods gather for barbecues, block parties during National Night Out

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Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 12:00 am

For 18 years, neighbors living on 1800 block of Edgewood Drive have congregated once a year to fight crime the best way they know how.

As they sampled hamburgers, hot dogs and desserts, residents on this quiet suburban block got the opportunity to meet each other, meet Lodi’s firefighters and police officers, and share concerns with the goal of making their streets safer.

“They want to know what’s going on in the neighborhood,” said Evan Slaydon, host of Edgewood Drive’s block party Tuesday evening. “That’s what they are here for.”

Nearly 70 neighborhoods across the city hosted similar gatherings for Lodi’s 30th annual National Night Out. The event was a chance for neighbors to mingle and build relationships with members of the Lodi City Council and police and fire departments, who attended every party.

“This is community policing,” Lodi Police Chief Mark Helms said. “This is the police getting to know the community and the community getting to know the police. It’s a chance to interact with people when they’re not calling you for service. And it’s one night a year where we know we’re going to mobilize as many people as we can to go to neighborhoods and spend time with people.”

At Casa de Lodi, a mobile home park on the 800 block of East Turner Road, roughly 60 residents gathered for an ample barbeque and the chance to speak with Lodi police officers.

During a question-and-answer session with Lodi Police Lt. David Griffin, Betty Shannon-Gesler said she was concerned about the number of drivers speeding along Turner Road near the mobile home park.

Other residents brought up issues involving noise nearby, and Griffin addressed the state of crime in the area.

“It’s rare that we receive a call for service out here,” Griffin said to one resident.

Resident Peter Kooyman, who’s attended many National Night Out events, said the police always take steps to address his concerns.

“When we talk to (the police) it seems like they get moving,” he said. “It’s a wonderful event because we also get to thank them for what they do.”

At every party, police officers and firefighters handed out toys to children and pamphlets containing Lodi crime statistics to adults. SWAT trucks and fire engines also made the rounds.

Tuesday also gave neighbors a chance to meet each other and bolster relationships that ultimately strengthen Neighborhood Watch groups.

“It’s 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.”

Mayor Alan Nakanishi said proactive residents have helped the city fight crime.

“I’ve always thought Neighborhood Watch was an important element in keeping our city safe,” he said. “That’s why we’re one of the safer cities.”

Participants boast about the city’s commitment to the event every year. And on Tuesday, Lodi — despite its size — held more National Night Out parties than Sacramento or Stockton.

“One of the things that amazes me about Lodi is that sense of community,” Helms said. “They care about their town. They live here because they want to live here. It’s pretty impressive.”

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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