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Know your neighbors
NNO pic1
Ruby Lara and 3-month-old son Mateo get to know their neighbors during a National Night Out block party on Tuesday. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

I'm ashamed to admit that in the 14 years I've lived in Turlock, this is the first year I've attended a National Night Out event.

It's not that I'm opposed to meeting my neighbors and participating in a block party; it's just that the event is always held on a Tuesday night —  my late night at work. Well, this year I assigned myself to cover National Night Out, and what better way to do it than in my very own neighborhood.

Since moving to my new home in December, I've talked to the neighbors on both sides of my house but nobody else. I frequently take walks through my neighborhood and have some idea of the types of trees and shrubs my neighbors prefer, and their choice in vehicles, but that's it.

On Tuesday, I finally got to put names with shrubs and find out a little about the people who planted them.

I found out that Rick and Phyllis Ritts are the old timers of my street — in terms of residence, not age — having lived in the same house for 25 years.  My other immediate neighbors have been in residence 14, 10, 8 years and nine months, respectively. I also got to meet the newest addition to the neighborhood, Mateo Lara, who is 3 months old.

After introductions and the offers of food — most of which weren't on my strict Paleo diet — I learned the history of my street's National Night Out participation. It was started three years ago after my neighbor Maria Sanchez had a few incidents with people casing her house and coming to the door demanding food.

"One day I saw people on the corner. I went to the bank and when I came back I saw them at my house watching through the window," Sanchez said.

Sanchez said she called her daughter, who is active in the Neighborhood Watch near her home, and she advised her to talk to the neighbors. Sanchez said that even though she was initially apprehensive about just knocking on her neighbors' doors, she's glad she did it.

"One day I might need help in an emergency, and I'll know where to go. It's nice that the people watch for you," she said.

Phyllis Ritts said that the NNO event is a good way for neighbors to get to know each other and start a conversation about safety. Knowing what vehicles are supposed to be parked in front of a house goes a long way in helping prevent burglaries.

Although I wasn't able to stay long at my street's National Night Out block party, I'm really glad I went. I feel a lot more connected to my community, and safer knowing there are neighbors keeping an eye out for my loved ones and property.