By AUTUMN NEAL
The Oakdale community swarmed to six different locations on the first Tuesday of August all for the purpose of participating in one event – National Night Out.
“There’s a connection between crime rate and quality of life and the strength of partnerships within the community,” Oakdale Police Chief Scott Heller explained at the Burchell Hill location. “The more we strengthen those relationships with the community and police, the lower our crime will be and the higher our quality of life will be. This has been demonstrated time and time again.”
In fact, Oakdale was one of 16,000 communities across America to participate in National Night Out. The main purpose is just as Chief Heller noted, to strengthen relationships between neighbors in community and law enforcement.
A look around Burchell Hill revealed raffles, local organizations passing out free information, the Oakdale Community Band playing, free food, and plenty of good conversation.
But does this really make a difference?
“There’s a lot of factors and I can tell you this,” Heller answered, “we look at crime stats and for the last three years, we’ve seen our crime stats have been below the five year average. And I think that’s indicative of success and increasing partnerships with the community.”
Another look around Burchell Hill revealed donated gifts from local establishments, park rangers promoting water safety for younger kids, volunteers coming to spend a muggy August evening at an event to better their community, and camaraderie between neighbors and first responders.
Kathy Waterman, the coordinator for Golden Empire Apartments, looked over her event and all of the people attending, eating, and engaging with their community.
She reported: “When I get them out here, I explained how we’ve got to do our part.”
Coordinators like Waterman, Lloyd Kjos, Mike Hancock, and more were recognized for their outstanding efforts to bring National Night Out to life.
“We really appreciate their efforts because they start this with us in partnership and it takes a lot of work,” Heller continued. “It takes a lot of work and we’re very fortunate ... the rest of Neighborhood Watch meets throughout the year, so we encourage, coming out of this, let’s not just make it one night a year. We encourage people to get involved.”
Waterman expressed how grateful and blessed she was by businesses around town like Steves Chevrolet, Papa Murphy’s, and Grocery Outlet, as they donated gift cards to raffle off to those attending her event.
People volunteered to pass out the free food donated by pizza establishments not for the sake of promoting their organization, but just out of the kindness of their hearts since they were “going to be here anyway.”
Local law enforcement had most of their team available making their way around Oakdale last Tuesday to increase their presence at each event: their officers, special units, equestrians, tactical team, motorcycles, aerial vehicles, honor guard, CAPs, volunteers, and interns. It was, as Heller noted, “all hands on deck.”
The community also had a visibly positive response to these endeavors.
“This is the point,” Mayor J.R. McCarty said after the kick-off event. “Us coming together and being one.”