Neighborhoods celebrate National Night Out


A peaceful, playful kind of scene played out in communities nationwide on Tuesday for National Night Out. In Oakland, police say the best way to keep neighborhoods safe is to make every night National Night Out and one neighborhood seems to have taken that advice to heart.

After a rash of assaults, Oakland's Chinatown practically transformed itself overnight, but the entire city of Oakland has made huge strides since National Night Out started 27 years ago.

Oakland police say six years ago, there were 36 National Night Out parties in Oakland. On Tuesday night, there were 452 gatherings that went on across the city -- the most ever.

"I think that just tells you that our community is coming together here in Oakland. They want to come out, they want to get to know each other in a fun, safe way," said Lea Rubio, a National Night Out coordinator.

The key is getting to know your neighbors and forming a solid network that looks after each other.

"We can take Chinatown as an example of how every community should be acting in the city of Oakland," said Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts.

The Chinese Chamber of Commerce immediately posted surveillance cameras and encouraged residents to report crimes after a rash of assaults occurred against elderly citizens, including the highly-publicized beating death of 59-year-old Tian Sheng Yu in April. The crimes galvanized the Chinatown community, and on Tuesday night residents were building relationships despite the dialects and political allegiances that once divided them.

"I guess people do realize how important it is for all of us to be part of our community. So we are learning and we are learning quick," said Carl Chan from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

Leaders say violent crime is down partly because the people have done away with an old cultural philosophy.

"There's an old, old Chinese philosopher that said, 'things that don't concern you, you should not bother to get involved,' but that is changing," said Ed Callaco, a Chinatown volunteer.

Now Chinatown is broadcasting surveillance video throughout the community and is posting surveillance photos of criminals doing things like painting graffiti on a storefront.

"Now the Asian community will get involved even if it's not them that are the victim. They will get involved, call the police for help," said Callaco.

Batts said National Night Out is the night you forge relationships, but every night after that is when you cultivate and reinforce them.

BART police also participated in National Night Out. Tuesday evening, officers passed out safety kits to riders. They said it's a great opportunity to build back relationships with the community. This is especially important following the 2009 New Year's Day shooting of Oscar Grant and verdict in that case.

"There's a great unknown about why we are here, what do we represent, and who do we represent. These opportunities give us a chance to speak with all those people who come to these stations," said BART Cmdr. Dan Hartwig.

The safety kits included a child fingerprinting kit for parents along with a keychain whistle.

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