Crime & Justice

National Night Out tries to build bridges between police and community

LAPD Sgt. Emada Tingirides hands out beaded bracelets and books to a girl in the Nickerson Gardens Housing Project in Watts.
LAPD Sgt. Emada Tingirides hands out beaded bracelets and books to a girl in the Nickerson Gardens Housing Project in Watts.
Frank Stoltze

On Tuesday night, police divisions around Southern California — and the country — will roll out the welcome mat to members of their communities.

It's part of National Night Out, an event designed to build bridges between law enforcement and the neighborhoods they serve. Held the first Tuesday in August, it's been happening since 1984.

The events are intended to be fun, with free food and entertainment offered at many locations, but in a statement Tuesday underscoring the importance of community-building and public safety, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said National Night Out is an opportunity to build understanding, form partnerships and work toward a more secure city.

"Relationships are the foundation of safe communities — and we are living in a time when it is more important than ever to elevate the conversation about law enforcement in America, and strengthen bonds with the men and women who put everything on the line to protect and serve our neighborhoods," Garcetti said in a statement.

Michael Lopez of the LAPD sees it as a way for officers and civilians to get to know each other before an emergency occurs.

"Nine times out of 10, community members meet officers when they respond to radio calls in police cars," Lopez tells KPCC. "This is a way they can go one-on-one, ask questions and greet the police — and vice versa. We get to know each other and [they get] to see us as police officers. We're human beings just as well as anybody else."

Many divisions in the Southland will be participating. Some events are low-key. Others involve live music, food and entertainment.

Here is a list of some of the Southern California locations that are participating: 

You can see an extended list of events on the police union's website.

Lopez didn't mention the recent police shootings in Baton Rouge or Dallas, but those incidents have impacted the way police officers see civilians and vice versa.

"With everything that's happening throughout the nation, this is a good way for the community and police to get together and try to solve problems," Lopez says. "We're here to help out the community. We need them as much as they need us. We need to work together to prevent crime."

This story has been updated.