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Giving crime a going away party
McGruff the Crime Dog offers a hug to a Turlock youngster during a previous National Night Out event. - photo by Journal file photo

The citizens of Turlock are experts at throwing the perfect block party. For the past six years, Turlock has embodied the spirit of the annual National Night Out event by bringing neighbors together with each other and local public safety and government leaders in an effort to prevent crime and foster a sense of community.

Turlock's commitment to this annual night of bonding was recognized in 2013 by the National Association of Town Watch with a National Night Out award for being the highest ranked Northern California city among similar sized populations. Last year's event included 33 block parties that brought out more than an estimated 2,000 people. Approximately 60 city personnel, including command staff from both the police and fire departments, visited the neighborhoods participating in the annual event.

This year's National Night Out event, set for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday,  is shaping up to be just as impactful, with 32 block parties signed-up and a community-wide event hosted by the City of Turlock Recreation Department set for Columbia Park.

"The whole purpose of National Night Out is building crime prevention awareness and for police, fire and local government leaders to get out and interact with the public to build community relations," said Turlock Police Community Service Officer Michelle Backeroff.

Public safety representatives and city leaders will be visiting block parties around town — from the small ones that include just one court to the neighborhood-wide events that block off three to four streets, said Backeroff.

A few special guests will also be making an appearance on Tuesday, including McGruff the Crime Dog, Turlock Police's Blue Santa, the City of Turlock's Go Green mascot and Moonshine the search and rescue bloodhound.

The entire town of Turlock is invited to attend the Columbia Park party from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at 600 Columbia St. There will be children's activities, informational booths, a free barbecue and a fire engine.

Over 37.8 million people in 16,242 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide participated in the 2013 National Night Out event.

“This is a night for America to stand together and promote awareness, safety, and neighborhood unity. National Night Out showcases the vital importance of police-community partnerships and citizen involvement in our fight for a safer nation. On NNO, we invite neighborhoods nationwide to join us and 'give crime a going away party,'" said National Project Coordinator Matt Peskin.