Block parties celebrate night out against crime

Michelle Kibiger

Crime prevention and neighborhood renewal will be the subject of lawn chair conversations Tuesday at National Night Out celebrations around the University.
More than 30 neighborhood block parties are planned within three miles of the University. For 13 years, National Night Out has been held to strengthen neighborhood ties, heighten awareness about crime and safety and improve community relations with police.
Jeff Nachbar, community crime prevention-safe officer for the southeast Minneapolis area, said events like National Night Out are a good way for neighbors to spend an evening together and discuss these issues in an informal, fun atmosphere.
“It’s a highlight of the year,” Nachbar said.
Suzi Weber, crime and safety coordinator with the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Revitalization Project, said just knowing your neighbors can discourage crime.
“When you get to know your neighbors, you’re more likely to look out for them,” Weber said.
Because students are the primary residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the University, Nachbar said it’s important for them to get involved. He said students are coming back to urban neighborhoods to live after finishing school and many are actively involved in their communities while completing their studies.
“They want to make their time at the University a positive experience,” Nachbar said. “They want to get to know their communities.”
The Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association will have its board of directors meeting outside Tuesday night in honor of the event. Also, a large block party is planned on Seventh Street Southeast between 12th and 13th avenues southeast from 6 to 9 p.m.
Party-goers can expect a potluck dinner, games for kids and prizes donated by several Dinkytown merchants. Local musicians Jerry Rau and Flora will perform.
Paula Kamrath, coordinator of the event, said it has been several years since her neighborhood has had a block party. She said all the immediate neighbors had to agree to allow the event and sign a petition in order to have a party.
Kamrath said this is a good way for people to get to know the history and culture of the area.
“It’s important to know your neighbors and have some kind of idea what the neighborhood is like,” she said. “It helps you feel more a part of the whole Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.”
The University police and the University Fire Department are also helping coordinate events. Kamrath invited both groups to appear at her block’s party. The Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Revitalization Project also donated funds for Kamrath’s block party.
Nachbar said events like National Night Out are part of a trend toward people redeveloping a sense of community.
“National Night Out is an opportunity for neighbors to reconnect with each other and reinforce their commitment to having a strong community,” Nachbar said.
He said although society in general has lost its sense of community, many people are moving back to the cities and becoming more involved in making neighborhoods better, safer places to live.
“There’s a real energy and enthusiasm,” Nachbar said. “I think there’s a growing interest in rebuilding a strong sense of community within neighborhoods.”
Nachbar said that crime prevention is only one benefit of building a strong community. He said a strong community is about neighbors supporting one another and working together to reduce crime.
“For people to reach out and take a chance, open themselves up and get to know their neighbors — that’s what works,” Nachbar said.