National Night Out draws crowds

Block parties attract thousands across Minneapolis

People congregated across the city and nation Tuesday night, celebrating the 25th Annual National Night Out.

Block parties and other activities were held to strengthen neighborhood spirit and prevent crime.

The goal of the national event is to raise crime awareness and prevention while strengthening relationships between communities and the police. ]

Organizers had said they expected more than 60,000 Minneapolitans to participate. There were at least 1,137 separate events in the city, including several in Marcy-Holmes, Como and Cedar-Riverside neighborhoods.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Diane Hofstede, whose ward includes Dinkytown, attended a National Night Out block party.

She said the events help people get to know their neighbors.

“It’s events like this that bring people together,” Hofstede said. “You care more about people you know.”

Nicholas Juarez is a crime prevention specialist for the 2nd Precinct, which includes the University. He said these celebrations get neighborhood communities out and thinking about crime.

“They’re the eyes and ears of the community.” Juarez said. “They’re the ones that need to get fired up about things.”

Block clubs are the base of Minneapolis’ National Night Out campaign. These groups of neighbors watch out for crimes and suspicious activities in their areas.

Second Precinct Inspector Robert Skomra said the National Night Out is an important event, but he wishes neighborhoods got together more than once a year.

He attended an event in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood .

“I gotta come and show the oldest neighborhood in Minneapolis that I support them,” Skomra said.

Last year, Minneapolis ranked first among large cities for National Night Out turnout. Over 62,000 people participated, which is more than 16 percent of the city’s population.

However, fewer University students are around in August.

Ward 2 Councilman Cam Gordon, whose ward includes much of the University, said he’s interested in getting students involved in similar events during the fall.

Block parties could be held in areas around the University, attracting students who recently moved into new neighborhoods.

Sydne Westorff , who graduated from the University this spring, said students should know the homeowners who live near them, and there should be a dialogue.

National Night Out is an easy way to do that, she said.

“It’s a wonderful event,” said Westorff, who is also a student-neighborhood liaison for the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.

Nationally, the event is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit organization.

National Night Out has recently drawn some controversy. The Associated Press reported that the group’s national leader, Matt Peskin, makes more than $300,000 in salary and benefits – nearly a third of the organization’s budget.