National Night Out: Rosemead and San Gabriel
August 15, 2012 • 507 views
By Sean Telles
Local National Night Out celebrations parallel community outreach strategies: Rosemead brings community together while San Gabriel rewards those in the know.
San Gabriel celebrated National Night Out by mounting a posse and riding out to block party events. Large army vehicles accompanied a slew of patrol cars and fire engines leaving from the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse parking lot to over forty block parties in the city hosted by neighborhood watch leaders. 1990s icons McGruff the Crime Dog and The Incredible Crash Dummies joined city council, school district members, and other local leaders including representatives from La Casa Community Center, Asian Youth Center, Senator Carol Liu, and State Assemblyman Michael Eng. The San Gabriel police were honored in front of city officials and the military.
The city of Rosemead let the community come to them and chose a public event in the park, which was attended by Sponge Bob Squarepants, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Sheriff Lee Baca, and other city officials. Local groups and non-profits were given tables and chairs to share material and resources with the 650 plus community members who enjoyed the evening together. Children enjoyed the playground equipment while teenagers passed out free food and onlookers enjoyed a vintage cop car. Ham Radio operators were honored in front of residents.
The advantage of San Gabriel’s method is a more personal experience, but many in the city were excluded. The block parties celebrate a very casual neighborhood watch program within the city and there were no public lists of events taking place. With little to no publicity for the event, many new residents were clueless about how to be involved – or that it was even happening. One house I approached, after being given the address by the organizer, resulted in an older woman, who did not speak English, looking fearfully at my camera as I awkwardly tried to explain to her why I rang her doorbell. However, when I accidently ran into a block party close by, the people were welcoming and the closed off streets allowed for a great small-town America feel.
The festivities reflected different city approaches to involving the community. San Gabriel seems to expect residents to know what is happening based on tradition –as their monthly publications are not reliably printed or distributed (something the city is hoping to change with a new design this year) and their new website still seems to be incomplete. Rosemead blasts information to the community through emails, city banners, and by involving local groups as partners. Rosemead also has a council of local leaders, who meet regularly, called “Rosemead Connections.” San Gabriel expected the community to conform to its design: from having to sign up in advance, to making do with ‘one size fits all’ large t-shirts, hosting a party, or going along for a tour of events in a city vehicle. Rosemead allowed for the freedom to drop in on the events, take in what is of personal interest, and leave. In addition, the cities differed in planning. The San Gabriel event was mastered by a police officer brought out of retirement, while Rosemead used its Public Safety Coordinator.
In the end, National Night Out is about knowing your community well in order to prevent crime and build relationships between residents and police. Both cities accomplished this in different ways: In San Gabriel, community was celebrated through efforts of individuals and neighbors; Rosemead celebrated neighborhood groups as a single community. Both events were impressive, but one was more inclusive. Rosemead offered – in addition to learning about mental health resources, youth leadership programs, and community affairs – an opportunity for cross cultural experiences seen in small ways, such as children from all backgrounds approaching the Asian Pacific Clinics table to ask for more dried seaweed.
Events like this are not easy, and nothing should be taken away from San Gabriel. In fact, event planner Officer Alex Acosta – a respected and well-known figure – should be rewarded for his 30 plus years of service to the community. However, Rosemead’s dedication to its platform as “a new kind of small town in the heart of an urban environment” feels like a return to the wonder years, and it feels good.