National Night Out growing

GLENDALE — The National Night Out on Aug. 4 promises to be bigger and more inclusive than ever, with events planned for neighborhoods throughout Glendale and the Crescenta Valley on a much grander scale than in years past.

The night of communities taking to the street to bring awareness to local crime issues began in 1984. The event was founded by the National Assn. of Town Watch, a nonprofit crime-prevention organization that works with crime watch neighborhood groups and law enforcement. In its first year, 400 communities in 23 states took part, with 2.5 million Americans participating. By 2007 those numbers grew to 35.4 million from all 50 states, organizers said.

That growth has been seen in Glendale, where last year about 300 people joined the night out with a walk down Honolulu Avenue. The prior year, the event was at Palmer Park with equal success. This year, more than 1,000 people are expected to participate.

“We have now moved one event to eight,” Glendale police Sgt. John Gilkerson said.

Having the event isolated to one area of the city did not reach as many people as police and citizen groups had hoped. Gilkerson said the diversity of the city neighborhoods was not being addressed with just one location.

That’s when Crescenta Valley resident Ron Scott got involved.

“Last year my family and I walked out of Joselito’s in Montrose and noticed a throng of people walking down the street, and some of them were my neighbors,” Scott said.

He followed the group and along the way discovered what National Night Out was about and decided to get involved.

“I had heard that then-Mayor John Drayman had made a speech that night asking for community help. I called him and asked what I could do,” Scott said.

From there he met with Gilkerson and Glendale police Officer Matt Zakarian, the community policing officer assigned to Montrose.

“Matt and I went to various homeowners organizations and the Glendale Realtors group and told them about the program and asked for support,” Scott said.

Gilkerson credits Scott with “beating the drum” and stirring interest in the event, which for the first time melded Glendale and Crescenta Valley neighborhoods into one “night out.”

Committees were formed for each community area, and volunteers were organized. The group agreed on a goal to encourage all community members to come out and meet with neighbors for the purpose of increasing knowledge of crime-prevention techniques.

Scott reached out across unincorporated and city lines to include La Cañada and La Crescenta with their neighborhood event planned for the Verdugo Hills Hospital’s lower parking lot.

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