SMPD: The annual event is moving into neighborhoods. SMDP File Photo

On Oct. 5 the Santa Monica Police Department is seeking to revive all the community camaraderie of old-school block parties and will be helping neighbors close their streets to cars in clusters across the City.

The parties are coordinated as part of National Night Out, an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and helps neighbors get to know one another.

The event used to be held in one large venue, but this year SMPD has decided to spread the celebrations across the City in order to encourage all neighborhoods to take part and limit the gathering of a mass crowd. They will be providing around twelve “Block Party in a Bin” kits with street closure permits, chalk, bubbles, glowsticks, games and more.

Residents can register their block or a several blocks together at Winners will be chosen at random as there are a limited number of kits available, but all neighbors are welcome to throw their own block parties.

Throughout the night an SMPD ice cream truck will be driving through the City and giving out free tasty treats at each block party. Officers, both human and canine, will spend time visiting with the different groups.

National Night Out was founded in 1984 and is currently celebrated in over 16,500 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases around the world. The evening strives to improve community safety by strengthening connections between neighbors and police personnel.

“The whole point of National Night Out was basically to turn on your outside lights and go out and sit on your porch, and get to know your neighbors,” said Sergeant Erika Aklufi. “It kind of turned into more of a festival, and we wanted to bring it back to what it was intended to be as a grassroots type thing.”

Aklufi said that block parties felt like the right approach in the current climate, as it will help neighborhoods reconnect after many months of distancing and it will limit the potential for COVID transmission by splitting the event into multiple smaller celebrations.

This year SMPD is putting an emphasis on the role of neighbors in keeping their communities safe and sharing information on how to create neighborhood watch groups.

“The size of the town that we have and the number of residents that we have, we need neighbors to go out and get to know their neighbors,” said Aklufi. “It seemed like the perfect way to kick off a long standing Neighborhood Watch program, by doing a neighborhood oriented National Night Out, much like they did back in the ’80s.”