Featuring over 2,500 attendees gathered in the heart of the historic Mission District, this year’s National Night Out marked a new tradition for the San Gabriel Police Department. While previous events centered on intimate neighborhood visits from the police department and the fire department, this year’s celebration featured a large block party in front of the Mission Playhouse.
“After a lengthy consideration of the successes and complaints about previous National Night Out events, it became evident that there are several issues related to logistics for the police department,” said Eugene Harris, Chief of Police. “Moving from one destination to another posed a significant problem as neighborhood participation grew, specifically in the north end of the city. Residents in the south end would then voice concerns about underrepresentation.” Harris also cited ongoing construction as a reason for the change.
Members of the bicycle response team
To address these concerns, this year’s National Night Out was held in the Mission District as a large block party. Local organizations – such as the San Gabriel Library – also made appearances, and the police department showcased several new programs and initiatives throughout the evening. “We use National Night Out as an opportunity to introduce these different teams to our community members,” said Fabian Valdez, Acting Captain. “It’s our hope that positive interactions between the police department and the community will occur.” Among the programs are a new school community engagement team, a mental health team, a new K9 unit and the newly deployed bicycle response team.
A preview of the department's new K9 unit
Other festive activities – such as music, face painting, and a bouncing playhouse for kids – were also featured, along with free hot dogs, hamburgers and drinks.
While the event’s atmosphere was festive, National Night Out also allowed the community to gather together in a show of unity against crime. The national event was originally designed to heighten awareness on the subject of crime prevention and the importance of police-neighborhood alliances.
Hot dogs, hamburgers and drinks were served
Despite the change and break from twenty-two years of tradition, Chief Harris believes this year’s event was a success. “This year’s event was a telling example of what the San Gabriel community is all about,” Harris said. “With National Night Out, we showed what community togetherness looks like. Next year – together – let’s make it even better by continuing a new tradition."