by Anneli Rufus
Last night was the 26th annual National Night Out, aka "America's Night Out Against Crime," on which neighbors met and traded crime-prevention and safety tips with the aid of visiting firefighters and law-enforcement officers at thousands of block parties across the country.
Berkeley's dozens of block parties were as lively as ever. Some -- such as the Spruce/Arch/Corona party and the always-exuberant El Dorado-Lassen party -- are traditions stretching back many years. Others, such as the one on the 1200 block of Bonita Street, happened last night for the first time ever. Among the hobnobbers at this dessert potluck were City Councilman Laurie Capitelli and former US Secretary of Labor (and Supercapitalism author) Robert Reich.
"I first heard about National Night Out last year," said Mary Robinson, an artist who has lived in the neighborhood for two and a half years and who organized the new Bonita party. "Then I kept meeting more and more neighbors, and I thought this party would be a nice way to keep our community spirit going. In order to keep it simple, we had only desserts plus wine and beer. To keep it green, we asked everyone to bring their own wineglasses." Some also brought their own eating utensils. A fire crew and two motorcycle cops arrived to meet the neighbors and distribute coloring books and miniature fire helmets to delighted kids. Because auto burglaries are Berkeley's most common crime by far, the officers strongly urged residents never to leave anything valuable visible in cars parked in driveways or on streets. If they don't see anything worth taking from a car, we were told, most thieves will simply move on without breaking in.
Kudos to all the block captains and friendly folks who pitched in, welcomed neighbors and strangers, and stoked up those grills.