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National Night Out Tonight Promotes Police-Community Relationships

Attendees show their support at the Night Out For Safety and Liberation in Oakland in 2015, a rival event to the National Night Out. (Brooke Anderson)
Attendees show their support at the Night Out For Safety and Liberation in Oakland in 2015, a rival event to the National Night Out. (Brooke Anderson)
August 2, 2016

OAKLAND, Calif. - Tonight, 16,000 communities across the country will take part in the 33rd annual National Night Out, a program designed to foster relationships and understanding between police and the communities they serve. Organizers say the mission is particularly relevant in a year when high-profile police killings have been followed by targeted attacks on officers.

Matt Peskin is the national project coordinator with the National Association of Town Watch, which sponsors the events.

"Getting local law enforcement meeting with people under positive circumstances: no medical emergency, no fire, to traffic citation," he said. "Just hanging out for a few hours, getting to know one another a little bit better and that goes a long way in terms of crime prevention and safety in neighborhoods."

There are hundreds of events planned in communities across California. Contact local law enforcement for activities near you.

A second, rival event called the Night Out for Safety and Liberation will take place tonight in Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento, plus 2 dozen other cities across the country. These get-togethers emphasize social issues rather than better policing. Azadeh Zohrabi, with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, says cities spend too much on police and not enough on programs to combat things such as homelessness, drug abuse and mental health problems.

Azadeh Zohrabi, national campaigner with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, California, said cities spend too much on police and not enough on programs to combat things such as homelessness, drug abuse and mental health problems.

"The problem of police violence is a systemic problem that happens because we're relying on them to deal with all these things that are social issues," she said. "Having barbecues with police are not going to address the root causes that have arisen from our over-reliance on policing."

Zohrabi said many people have become wary of promoting neighborhood watch programs in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing. For information on these events go to www.nightoutforsafetyandliberation.com.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA