When Akram Keval moved to Sierra River Drive in east Elk Grove six years ago, he noticed something about his new neighborhood: Nobody talked to each other.
"Everyone's so busy all the time. People come home from work, they open their garages, they put their car inside, and that's it," Keval said.
When Keval started organizing annual National Night Out block parties a year later, however, he said things started to change. For the first time, he started to know his neighbors' names, where they worked, who their kids were.
That's exactly the idea behind National Night Out, the annual holiday that will take place this coming Tuesday. Residents in communities around the nation will take to the streets to hang out, share a meal, and develop the kind of bonds that police say will deter crime. In Elk Grove, more than 25 communities will host outdoor parties between 5:30 and 9:00 p.m.
The event is designed to "strengthen neighborhood spirit...and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back," says an Elk Grove Police Department press release.
Keval, who also attended the department's Citizens' Academy last year, said he didn't notice any particular problems with crime in his neighborhood, but that he was still expecting about 90 people to turn out for an event that will include a barbecue and a bounce house for the children.
Patrol and traffic officers, firefighters and city elected officials will stop by block parties throughout the city Tuesday.
For those residents who do have a specific concern about crime, EGPD spokesperson Christopher Trim said it's a good time to speak up.
"I always ask [residents], how's everything going? Do you have any increases in crime? Do you have any problems? Based on the feedback we get, we can develop a response," Trim said. "It's a good opportunity for us not just to give information but to get information as well."
The connections neighbors create can last throughout the year. This year, Keval hosted a joint Fourth of July barbecue with the other houses on his court—something he said might not have happened if it weren't for National Night Out.
"Once a year, we get them out of their comfort zone," he chuckled.
To find out if your neighborhood is hosting a National Night Out party, contact the EGPD's Denise Costello at (916) 478-8117 or David Feinberg at (916) 478-8130.
What do you think about National Night Out? Tell us in the comments.