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Berkeley Hosts a Successful National Night Out

By Rio Bauce, SPecial to the Planet
Friday August 04, 2006

On Tuesday, many Berkeley residents came together to bring public safety awareness into their communities by celebrating National Night Out Day 2006. There were block parties throughout the city, which promised food, fun, and socializing. 

“It’s a time for public safety,” commented Officer Ed Galvan, Public Information Officer for the Berkeley Police Department. “The chief unveiled his plan to reduce crime in Berkeley by 10 percent … and each group of people received steering wheel locks.” 

The event kicked off at the Public Safety Building in Berkeley Tuesday night. Firefighters, police officers and city officials were in heavy attendance. The National Association of Town Watch sponsored the event. The goal was to show criminals that residents are ready to fight back.  

Galvan said, “It’s very symbolic to criminals that we’re still here and we are looking out for each other in the community.” 

National Night Out Day is usually pretty well attended in Berkeley. This year, forty-six block parties were held. 

“I thought the turnout was great,” said Berkeley Councilmember Dona Spring, District 4. “The police officers and firefighters came to each neighborhood group meeting and they would ask people about crimes in their area. The police told the residents to lock their windows and lock their doors ... that this is how crime happens.” 

The Berkeley Fire Department spoke about arson, which has been increasing in the city recently. 

“We do identify within Berkeley that there is an arson issue,” said Deputy Chief David Orth, Public Information Officer for the Berkeley Fire Department. “It tends to be somewhat cyclic. People tend to light trashcans on fire … but we’re in an urban area and we have an active population. We’re working hard to combat this issue through things like National Night Out.” 

Spring thought that National Night Out 2006 was a particularly great way to educate people on safety. 

“It’s the neighbor-to-neighbor approach,” she said. 

The City of Berkeley offers additional incentives for neighbors to come together and meet about issues of public safety. If the neighborhood signs on as a neighborhood watch group and holds a minimum of two meetings a year, they receive a free dumpster. 

Spring said, “You want your neighborhood looking neat and clean. Crime is more attracted to places where people don’t care about their surroundings.”