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Santa Monica Celebrates Annual 'National Night Out' Tonight


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 1, 2017 -- When an elderly couple was bludgeoned to death in their Santa Monica apartment as the 1980s began, it was a frightening contribution to rising levels nationally of homicide, gang warfare and other violent crime.

“National Night Out” was born in that era, and while violent crime overall has dropped in the decades since, attendance at the event has skyrocketed.

On National Night Out, which will be celebrated across the country tonight, including in Santa Monica, police, firefighters, block clubs, crime-watch volunteers and elected officials will garther for a chance to know one another better, and to help reduce crime together.

“Who doesn't love hot dogs cooked by santamonicafd,” police joked in a Monday tweet about the evening. “Come out and meet your neighbors.”

Tonight’s activities take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Reed Park, at Lincoln and Wilshire boulevards, and Clover Park, at Ocean Park Avenue and 26th Street.

The event offers food, entertainment, games and information booths at each park, officials said.

Nationally, the event has been held annually since 1984 and is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch in the United States and Canada.

According to its organizers, National Night Out has grown significantly over the decades.

It was initially a “take back the streets” call to the public to turn out their porch lights and hold small gatherings. Its first year attracted an estimated 2.5 million residents across 400 communities in 23 states.

Although violent crime has dropped overall in the decades since, attendance for National Night Out reached more than 38 million residents in 20,000 communities across the country.

Each community organizes the event, which can range from back-yard barbecues to full-blown festivals. But the goal is the same: To increase awareness about local police programs in communities, such as drug prevention initiatives, neighborhood watch and other anti-crime efforts.

Violent crimes, such as murder and rape, are relatively rare in Santa Monica. The most reported crime in the city so far this year has been theft ("Theft Top Reported Crime in Santa Monica During First Half of Year," July 3, 2017).

Still, residents were badly rattled in May by two home invasions where the victims were severely assaulted.

In the first incident occurred in broad daylight on May 15, when a man in his 60s was severely assaulted in his North Montana home after reportedly answering a knock on his door ("Santa Monica Resident Severely Assaulted in North of Montana Home," May 17, 2017).

Less than two weeks later, the same two suspects brutally attacked a man and his son at a home near the exclusive Riviera Country Club ("Two Hospitalized After Second Home Invasion Robbery in Santa Monica's North of Montana Neighborhood," May 27, 2017).

The two suspects were arrested and charged in both incidents.


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