Another year, another successful Night Out
Aug 24, 2018 02:46PM
By Jana Klopsch
Kids and police interact during National Night Out on Aug. 7. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
The Diamond Summit neighborhood on the southwest corner of West Valley City averages about 300-400 people for its annual National Night Out block party. In years past the party was held on a residential street. It got too big.
It moved to a church parking lot to accommodate the growing numbers. It got too big.
This year they moved it to Oquirrh Highlands Park. It still might get too big.
Diamond Summit’s block party had approximately 600-700 people attend, according to Renee Layton, the block party’s coordinator and head of the Summit Neighborhood Watch.
“When we had our K9 unit demo it was just awesome to see how many people had come out,” she said.
Layton’s neighborhood bash was just one of 25 block parties to take place throughout West Valley City on Aug. 7, with more happening Aug. 24. It’s all part of National Night Out’s 35th anniversary, a crime and drug prevention event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. The night serves as an opportunity to bring a neighborhood together as well as law enforcement.
“When I was growing up, everyone was outside, nowadays it's not like that,” Layton said. “This is a good opportunity to get neighbors out and to meet each other. When you know your neighbors you're more willing to look out for their home when they’re out of town. It’s just a good way to solidify those relationships.”
Diamond Summit’s block party featured a K9 demonstration, a raffle to win Ring home security products (they include motion based cameras), and the West Valley City Police Department’s armored rescue vehicle.
A few miles northeast of Diamond Summit was the Solomon Farms block party where a candy cannon, live music and games were ongoing.
For Winonia Ward, the party’s chair, it’s the chance to build up your community.
“It’s to make us aware of what is around us,” she said. “I also think it’s to bring our neighborhood closer and you can see the diversity in here. It's a night to have fun, to get to know your neighbors and be relaxed.”
The calming aspect of the night proves just as beneficial for police and community interactions. Normally a resident’s contact with law enforcement is stressful, whereas this gives them a chance to eat some hot dogs together in a positive atmosphere.
Deputy Chief Matt Elson said it’s an activity where people aren’t calling them in crisis.
“It’s a fun chance to come on out and talk and interact with the good, hardworking people of West Valley,” he said. “Being a police officer is a people job, we wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t like people and serve the people in the community. And this is a chance to get out and show that.”
Strengthening the bond between officer and resident is just as helpful for police. Elson said the department had officers, detectives, the motor squad among others taking time outside of their regular work day to participate at every block party.
“It’s good to show our support for the neighborhoods,” he said. “They’re the eyes and ears for the police department, they help us do our job and we couldn't do it without the support of those people.”
This relationship has led to West Valley City being nationally recognized for their participation in the event every year since 2004. In 2017, only West Valley City and Syracuse received recognition in Utah.
Why has it become so big in WVC?
“Our neighborhood services department in West Valley is awesome,” Layton said as one of the primary reasons. “They've made it so that they set us, the volunteers, up for success. There's a good communication between the neighborhood services department facilitating all the things we need for tonight.” The meal served at Diamond Summit’s block party was provided by the city, she said.
“They set me up with all the resources I need to be able to help encourage people why neighborhood watch is so important,” Layton said.
Elson said liaisons between the city and neighborhood groups are particularly effective. “We have good people involved at all levels that just keep the program going and they give it success,” he said.
There is still room for improvement.
“Every year we like to see these (block parties) get bigger, like to see more neighborhood watches, more community groups, block groups, to get involved in their neighborhoods,” Elson said.
Ward just loves seeing the unity, even if it means spending a lot from her own pocket. “I’m not well-to-do, but if it brings the community together, it’s a good thing.”