OCEANSIDE — Under the sunset’s pink clouds an outdoor screen lit up to the squeals of dozens of children at Libby Lake Park. The gathering on Aug. 5 celebrated National Night Out, an annual community-building event that brings together neighbors and police in a stand against crime.
In the Libby Lake neighborhood families enjoyed the park, popcorn was served and kids toured the police mobile command center and received Crime Stopper coloring books before “The Lego Movie” began.
“A lot of it is community in itself,” Jimmy Figueroa, Project REACH youth program supervisor, said. “The prevention aspect is based on community members listening, enjoying each other, getting to know one another.”
“Hanging out together increases relationships.”
Oceanside Police, Vista Community Clinic Project REACH, Interfaith Community Services and Save Our Streets neighborhood watch group were there to celebrate and support the neighborhood.
“It’s a family oriented event, we combine that with youth activities, crime prevention and alternatives for a safer neighborhood,” Maria Yanez, Oceanside Neighborhood Services management analyst, said.
“We want to support residents as much as possible with crime prevention and resource access.”
At last year’s Night Out event the Libby Lake neighborhood was still healing from the tragic park shooting that took the lives of two teens and injured two others in March 2013.
“The neighborhood has gone through a lot in the last few years,” Yanez said.
This year the neighborhood has moved forward.
Figueroa said the families and close friends of the victims will always carry the loss with them, but they are also the individuals who are leading the way to improve the community.
“The ability to make a difference — that’s powerful,” Figueroa said. “Anyone can make a difference.”
Students attending the Project REACH after school program knew the victims, and decided to restart the high school/elementary school-mentoring program as a way to make a positive change.
Middle school students in Project REACH began weekly park cleanups.
“Our hope is to leave hopeful every day,” Figueroa said. “Hope can transcend and pass all barriers. The REACH kids know it.”
Night Out celebrations were also held at Joe Balderrama Park in the Eastside neighborhood and Crown Heights Community Resource Center in Crown Heights.
The annual City Peace Walk and Prayer Gathering was held the same evening at the Junior Seau Pier Amphitheater.