Police Chief Hopes to Expand National Night Out Next Year

San Rafael participated in National Night Out for the first time last week. Police Chief Diana Bishop hopes to include more neighborhoods next year.

Police Chief Diana Bishop and the are already planning next year’s “National Night Out” after the city’s debut in the program last week.

“National Night Out” is a nation-wide program that encourages residents to organize social activities on their blocks in order to get to know each other with the idea that if neighbors are familiar with one another, they are more apt to report suspicious activity in their neighborhood.

Last week was San Rafael’s first time participating in the program. Around 300 people in eight neighborhoods participated, according to police spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher.

“If we got five neighborhoods, I would’ve been happy,” said Bishop, who decided to bring the event to San Rafael after witnessing its success at her old post in Santa Clara.

The ice cream socials and potlucks were spread throughout San Rafael, from Gerstle Park to Contempo Marin. Bishop along with Mayor Gary Phillips, other council members and beat officers went to each event.

“I thought this was a wonderful idea when I first heard it,” Phillips said. “It brings our neighborhoods together and it puts a face on cops.”

Although the Canal neighborhood did not participate this year, Bishop’s goal is get them more involved for 2013. “We talked with , but it was hard to find a good street location since it’s a denser are,” she said.

The program was created in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch to make a statement against crime throughout the country.  At first, neighbors were encouraged to leave their front porch lights on, showing their support with their local police departments in the fight against crime.

That first year, 400 communities in 23 states participated.  Since then, the program has grown steadily.  Last year, 37.1 million people in 15,325 communities from all 50 states U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide participated.

The event means something different to every city, Bishop said. To some it means taking back our streets from criminals. To others it means community and good food.

To Tessa Barr, who lives on Latham Street, it meant her puppy participating in the dog parade. “I was recruited by a neighbor,” she said. “And when I heard the idea for the event I thought it sounded like fun.”

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