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Cops, Citizens Get Together
A police and citizens gathering billed as a talk about fighting crime and street gangs turned out to be a genial neighborhood party complete with folklorico dances and barbecued hot dogs in addition to displays of sheriff's department equipment.

"It's a great turnout. I appreciate everybody turning up," said Riverbank Police Chief Bill Pooley of the impressive crowds that gathered Friday evening at Castleberg Park despite it being the start of a three-day Labor Day holiday weekend. "The idea was simply for residents and officers to meet and get to know each other. I hope it makes a difference."

Mayor Virginia Madueno addressed the gathering in Spanish and Chief Pooley in English. Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson also attended the event to meet and greet residents. A police K9 named Sam and his handler Marcia Mattos, who are due to join the Riverbank force, provided a brief demonstration. Then the dancers took center stage, both children of the local Mexican folklorico group and students from the Cultural Center of Riverbank performing Hawaiian dances.

Pooley in a recent report to City Council listed a score of drive by shootings - into houses and vehicles with no serious injuries to people - over the past few months, deplored the activity of street gangs and the atmosphere of fear and intimidation they create, and noted the reluctance of residents to give information to the police.

Events such as the National Night Out in early August and the informal gathering on Friday night are aimed at breaking through the barriers, encouraging exchange of information and "taking back the streets," he said.

"Be sure to mention we are still recruiting for Neighborhood Watch," he added. "People who are interested are invited to call (Community Services Officer) Gina Reno at 863-7106 or 869-7162."

The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, besides Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District, turned out in force. Displays by the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) and by the Bomb Squad, as usual, were especially popular. Also available for a close up look was a non-lethal gun that fires bean bags and a small version of a bazooka that launches rockets capable of destroying a tank.

Groups including the horses and riders of the Sheriff's Mounted Patrol and Sheriff's Team of Active Retired Seniors were also in attendance.