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Police, Neighbors Band Together
Sheriff's deputies, firefighters and helpers visited neighborhood parties throughout Riverbank on Tuesday evening, Aug. 4 to meet the residents, talk to each other, munch on hot dogs and hamburgers and generally establish closer relationships between citizens and police.

National Night Out, as the annual event is called, is designed to fight crime and bolster Neighborhood Watch groups by having police and citizens meet face to face in an informal social setting and discuss their mutual problems.

Representatives of the Sheriff's Team of Active Retired Seniors plus members of Target and Home Depot stores accompanied the public safety agencies to hand out gifts such as children's stuffed animals and potted plants for adults.

Starting at four block parties in the Del Rio area of Stewart Road and Country Club Drive, the procession progressed southwards to half a dozen more stops within the city's borders.

At River Terrace off Estelle Avenue, Neighborhood Watch Captain Mike Carroll said residents of his street got serious about protecting themselves after there was a nighttime prowler reported and later a resident saw three men trying to break down a neighbor's door in broad daylight. The resident called 911 at once and the police responded but not soon enough to catch the burglars, who were aware they'd been spotted but seemed to know they had time to spare. They continued smashing the door but did not get in.

"He was right in the action he took and he didn't put himself in danger," said Carroll of the resident. "The meetings we have are valuable. We're organizing the people. Neighborhood Watch does work. It's not perfect. But it's good start."

At her home on Prestwick Drive in the River Cove subdivision, Virginia Madueno drew neighbors with Otter Bob's band playing beneath an awning and plenty to eat from tables set out in front of the garage.

"It's a chance to meet the neighbors and build a stronger neighborhood," she said. "I've meet Stan and Patricia and Ed and others just tonight. A lot of new people have moved in since we came about six years ago."

Madueno said she organized the Neighborhood Watch and is basically its captain.

Residents of Creekbend Court off Turpin Avenue again held a block party this year. Their leader Tim Dalton said he'd headed the local group for three years since it was formed. There had been some problems with car thefts. The residents campaigned, with the police chief's help, to get a streetlight put in at the end of the court, where the darkness attracted "riff raff and druggies."

"For this event, we put out fliers and contacted neighbors, met some new people, held a raffle, gave out gift certificates. We hold a party every year. Last year the high school cheerleaders came by and put on a show," Dalton added.

Ellie Oliveira of Jaguar Court, who got on the list of scheduled stops at the last minute, said her area hasn't formed a neighborhood watch yet although one resident had his car broken into. But she and two residents who've been attending the Community Center meetings have been talking to Deputy Jesus Sigala about doing so.

Interestingly enough, some residents of neighboring streets like Country Manor Drive have been coming over to talk about that prospect and pass out pamphlets so she expects the whole neighborhood to join in forming a neighborhood watch.

The ambulance and fire crews arrived rather late Tuesday night because they had to respond to an emergency call but Home Depot representatives arrived in time to hand out garden plants to neighbors and Target workers brought inflatable beach balls for the children. They didn't try to be too ambitious with the food, serving cookies and watermelon slices for dessert, Oliveira added, as the emergency crews had already filled up on hot dogs and burgers at previous stops.