Modesto's National Night Out events No.1

For the second year in a row, Modesto's National Night Out events in August were the best in the nation for a city of its size, a feat that has not been accomplished in the 24-year history of the crime prevention program.

Modesto beat 25 other cities 100,000 to 299,000 in population, which included Ontario, Hayward, Riverside and Orlando, Fla., according to the National Night Out Web site.

National Night Out is designed to heighten crime awareness and build relationships between community members and law enforcement. Through neighborhood block parties and community gatherings each summer, participants hope to send a message to criminals that communities are organized and are fighting back.

Modesto was ranked No. 1 in its population category in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007. Modesto police coordinate the annual events, and the Modesto City Council, the Modesto Fire Department, the city's Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods and Public Works departments participated in this year's.

Crime prevention officer Rosie Fabela credits Modesto residents who create a partnership with police, which is essential to the program's success. She said residents choose to be proactive in their neighborhoods and watch out for one another to create a safer Modesto.

Most National Night Out events are organized by Neighborhood Watch coordinators in various neighborhoods, though anyone is invited to plan an event, Fabela stressed.

Growing participation around town means that people are getting to know more than their neighbors. Neighborhood block parties, around La Loma Avenue or Chetwood Drive, for example, that started as single blocks now stretch to five or more, she said.

"Instead of just knowing someone on their block, now they know someone six, seven or eight streets down," Fabela said. When people know who lives around them, it's easier to share information about security risks or suspicious activity, which can make a neighborhood safer.

"It's a good catalyst to start conversations: 'Did you know we had a break-in down the road?' These people make the effort to get to know one another. That effort makes where they live a better place to live. And it keeps it that way."

For more information about crimes in your neighborhood, visit the Modesto Police Department Web site, at www.modestopolice.com/crimestats.