National Night Out stresses safety issues in San Mateo County 

On Tuesday, some nine cities in San Mateo County hope to turn back the clock to a time when neighbors looked out for each other.

National Night Out is an annual meet-and-greet where folks hang out in front of their homes, meet their neighbors, maybe serve food or ice cream, and meet local police.

Now in its 27th year, the event will involve 36 million people in 15,000 communities nationwide, according to National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit crime-prevention organization.

At least nine San Mateo County cities will participate — including Belmont, Brisbane, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Bruno and San Mateo — although each city may handle gatherings differently.

Redwood City will hold its Night Out from 4 to 8 p.m. at Courthouse Square.

In Burlingame, however, police and firemen will go through neighborhoods between 6 and 9 p.m., visiting block parties and driveway gatherings with the aim of helping people “get more comfortable about giving us a call if they see something wrong,” police Chief Ed Wood said.

Establishing closer bonds with neighbors, something Wood described as “taking a step back in time,” can also prevent crime, he said.

“When a neighborhood is close knit it really becomes a force to be dealt with,” Wood said.

For example, Sgt. Jim Ford said neighbors can watch your house while you’re on vacation, spot an unfamiliar car or notice if an elderly person’s newspapers aren’t being picked up.

Ford said crime prevention is “two-sided.” On one hand, police teach the public about crime prevention, but on the other, the public has responsibilities, such as cutting hedges, installing alarms, and reporting suspicious things to the police.

“If criminals realize residents of the city of Burlingame are organizing, they will move on,” he said. Matt Peskin, project coordinator with National Association of Town Watch, said National Night Out tends to boost the number of neighborhood watch groups in a community, but in Burlingame, the reverse is true.

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