National Night out is a community-police awareness-raising event that has been taking place annually in the United States since 1984.
According to the National Association of Town Watch, the first annual National Night Out involved 2.5 million neighbors across 400 communities in 23 states. By 2019 the event has grown to include 38 million residents in 16,000 communities across the Unites States which includes the Eastside community of Riverside, CA.
On August 6, the Eastside community celebrated National Night Out in order to promote community-police relationships and programs. Families were able to enjoy spending time together at Patterson Park which is in the heart of the Eastside community.
The event offered something for every age group. Children were able to participate in exciting games and activities including a water slide, obstacle course and face painting. There was also a “Teen Vibe” area where teens ages 12 to 19 could get resources and learn about topics such as mental health and sex education. In addition, there were a number of other community resources available such as Riverside Police Department programs, health care, and legal services.
Community members joined in on the fun of Zumba and fitness class demonstrations. Several police officers were also present which got the children even more excited to be out at the park.
“The children see the police as their heroes,” says Griselda Martinez “they are overjoyed when they are greeted by them, receive a badge sticker, or get the opportunity to board a police car. They even look for them and ask ‘can I take a picture with you?’ It is the dream of many of the children to become police officers or firefighters.”
Griselda was a part of the planning process for National Night Out held at Patterson Park through REAL (residents of Eastside active in leadership) and Eastside HEAL Zone (a program of Riverside Community Health Foundation).
Areas of Patterson Park have been revamped thanks in part to the REAL group and the Eastside HEAL Zone, whose goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle in the Eastside.
A mural featuring children playing, people playing sports and doing other physical activities was painted across all four walls of the restroom building.
Funding for the mural project was provided by the Riverside Art Museum and was planned by the REAL group and a local Eastside artist. The mural is meant to help promote healthy living in a safe environment.
“[People] feel comfortable and they feel safe so instead of being home they go spend their time at the park”
Over 150 people came together at Patterson Park with police, neighbors, and friends, to support the efforts of National Night Out.