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National Night Out Draws Crowd
National Night Out in Riverbank brought out the crowds as neighbors gathered outdoors with police and other emergency services officers to get to know each other and remind criminals the streets after dark do not belong to them.

"It was a great event and a good turnout by the community especially the children. We like them to know we are there for them," said Police Chief Bill Pooley of the Aug. 3 evening event. "The highlight for me was when one little girl came up to me and put her hand in mine."

"A lot of people enjoyed an event that involved their neighbors," said City Manager Rich Holmer. "The second group we visited went all out. They had bounce houses and water slides for the kids besides tables of food and drink. I was impressed by that.

"I was also impressed by the participation by Home Depot, Target and Kohl's. They sent people to hand out gifts to the kids. Kohl's provided stuffed animals and books and stuff for STARS to distribute."

Drawing some curious, and occasionally apprehensive glances, the line of police vehicles, a fire engine, ambulance and other units with lights flashing and horns sounding moved all over town to visit the various block parties.

The procession visited Scott Pettit's Karate for Kids martial arts academy on Santa Fe Street, Sulky Court off Glow Road in the Crossroads area, Jaguar Court off Country Manor Drive, Creekbend Drive just south of Turpin Avenue and Rivergate in the northwest before finishing at Mayor Virginia Madueno's home on Prestwick Drive.

Carrying a writing tablet, Holmer took the opportunity to question people on what they liked about their neighborhoods and what they disliked.

On Jaguar Court, he got a complaint about what appeared to be illegal dog breeding. Holmer checked out the property that same night, found many more than the permitted three dogs plus a heavy odor, and by the next day was working on a solution.

Conspicuous in their orange aprons, Home Depot workers mingled with the crowd at each stop and handed out both aprons and potted flowers. Target representatives distributed stuffed toys to the children, Kohl's sent along bags of toys, books and stuffed animals for distribution by members of the Sheriff's Team of Active Retired Seniors (STARS).

Other local businesses like Save Mart, O'Brien's Supermarket, Subway and Cool Hand Luke's contributed to the raffle prizes.

Sulky Court resident Jill Magana said people there had set up a Neighborhood Watch to establish closer relations with the police and keep an eye on each other's homes following some burglaries and vandalism. But group members eventually lost interest and disbanded.

"But this is great. This is fun," she said of National Night Out. "We definitely will be out here again next year."

A resident at another stop, Tim Dalton, praised cooperation between neighbors. He pointed to an incident when they were keeping tabs on a vacant home, spotted youngsters inside the house and called police so fast the vandals were caught in mid party.

The food offered at the annual Night Out was varied as well. It ran from hot dogs and ice cream at Pettit's academy on the first stop to tacos and a version of carne asada at Madueno's home.

"Our daughter Savanna takes karate classes," said Joe Alves, sitting at the academy, enjoying some snacks with his family. "We moved recently from Ripon. This is our first year in Riverbank I think it's a great idea to have the police and other officers visit the community. And getting to know your neighbors better is a good idea too."