National Night Out parties promote unity in Vallejo and elsewhere

By Sarah Rohrs Times-Herald staff writer 
Posted: 08/08/2012 01:02:47 AM PDT

Debra Maxwell is moving to Vallejo soon and took a big step toward allaying her concerns about crime by attending the Heritage District National Night Out block party Tuesday evening. 

As dozens of neighbors gathered in the 700 block of Virginia Street, Maxwell said she plans to join the district's Neighborhood Watch Group which has 420 members. 

"This is awesome," Maxwell said of the festive block party designed to allow neighbors to get to know one another and send a message to criminals they are not welcome. 

Similar block parties unfolded throughout Vallejo, Benicia and American Canyon as part of the annual event taking place throughout the country. 

Capitol Street resident Kimberly Lee came with her numerous children.

She said her kids' scooters get stolen from her porch and her house has been broken into several times over the years.

The neighborhood coming together helps people band together to keep an eye on one another and deter crime, Lee said.

"Everyone is connected," resident Marion Swanson said of Tuesday's event. "It's practicing unity as a community for our neighborhood and staying connected, fighting crime and being cohesive."

Across town, one of Vallejo's largest National Night Out activities took place at Emmanuel Temple in the 900 block of Sixth Street. Besides delivering an anti-crime message, the event also offered information on a variety of health and social resources.

Nearly 30 vendors were on hand including Legal Services, Vallejo City Unified School District's anti-bullying programs, Genesis House, Alpha Pregnancy Resource Center, La Clinica and others. 

"This is to help people," said Emmanuel Temple Deacon Dan Harding of the event. "A lot of people who live here in South Vallejo feel ignored. We want to share what resources they have available."

Nearly a dozen Touro University students from the Student-Run Free Health Clinic (a weekly service at the South Vallejo Community Center) also gave free health screenings, osteopathic manipulations, and talked to people about their medications. 

South Vallejo resident Amelia Ballard, who lives down the street from the church, came for the first time to check out the event. Neighborhood crime, she said, is not as bad as it once was, and her current concerns are illegal dumping. 

Lifelong Vallejoan Deltrina Johnson said she's concerned about the area, and was enjoying the event. 

"This is great. It's brought all the community together in a peaceful manner," she said. "I hope it shows that people can come and work together." 

Vallejo's Neighborhood Watch Groups are run by Fighting Back Partnership. To get more details, call John Allen at (707) 649-5461. 

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at srohrs@timesheraldonline.com or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH.