PUBLISHED: 4:46 PM on Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Block parties bring neighbors together for a 'night out'
JUNEAU - Police don't always show up to parties to break things up. Sometimes they join in. In fact, seven block parties being held last week in areas from the valley to downtown Juneau were even the Juneau Police Department's idea.

Juneau participated in National Night Out Aug.5 for the first time. NNO is a 25-year-old community event designed to promote heightened awareness and strengthened participation in local anti-crime efforts.

photos courtesy of Kathy Underwood
  McGruff the Crime Dog , the Juneau Police Department and Capital City Fire and Rescue showed up for block parties in seven different neighborhoods around Juneau as part of National Night Out.
JPD Assistant Chief Page Decker participated in the event while serving in the lower 48 states and decided to bring the nationally-recognized event to Juneau.

"Some people don't even know who their neighbors are," he said. "When people know their neighbors, they're more likely to look out for them."

Decker, along with half a dozen officers including McGruff the Crime Dog, made rounds stopping at each party. One block party on Taku cordoned off the street and held a pot luck while other locations served up barbecue or hosted ice cream socials.

Joining JPD this year were members of Capital City Fire and Rescue, who brought along their fire engines for kids to play on and explore.

Decker said it was nice for police and firefighters to interact with the community in a social setting for a change.

Dee Ojard, JPD public safety systems coordinator, said Juneau's National Night Out involvement exceeded expectations. JPD had hoped for five block parties and wound up with seven overall, including four in the valley, one at Sunny Point and two downtown locations.

Ojard said expectations are even higher for next year and she hopes for 14 block parties in all.

"Next year, we want to approach (state) troopers, Coast Guard and Forest Service to see if they want to get involved," she said. "We'll start planning much earlier to get folks involved."

JPD awarded block captains with ice cream coupons, which will be honored by Alaska Proud, Fred Meier, Safeway, Super Bear and Wal-Mart.

"It was nice of their managers to agree to honor those coupons," Ojard said.

To learn more about National Night Out visit