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The Art of Community Building

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Wednesday, August 08, 2007, at 12:14PM
Car collection Ed Fuentes

There was a time when 100 cops at Third and Hewitt meant the party was over. Last night, LAPD was at the same corner before the bands and beer, ready to greet Downtowners for Central Division's 2007 version of National Night Out.

The street itself has seen filming, art installations, and gallery openings, so locals appeared in a natural migration to Traction once Double Naught Spy Car started the the night with jazz and Royal Clayton's, The Standard, Ay Caramba, Zip Fusion, Spring ST BBQ, and the Little Tokyo Center opened their booths.

National Night Out was created in 1984 to foster relationships between community and police, and last year LAPD followed it by-the-book in Skid Row. After a small turnout of "75 people and some hot dogs", organizers decided to explore each Downtown neighborhood. With a Neighborhood Watch Walk in it's 4th year, and year round work with LAPD, the Arts District was chosen to profile how community policing can work.

Meet and Greet"I'm on my way out," said LAPD Deputy Chief Sergio G. Diaz before stopping to meet with Downtowners from the Historic Core, the Arts District and every Central Division Senior Lead Officer possible (plus partner). The day moved into a night ska with Jump with Joey playing to 300 people who got lit by a LAPD helicopter as Commander Andrew Smith arrived.

"Jose is in the House!" said Night-Out co-coordinator Blair Besten introducing Councilmember Huizar, who then made a quick greet and hello. Organizers hoped the block party would bring out more residents from the new lofts where his district sits at the southern end of the Arts District.

From Out of TownAt one table Daniela Vitali (from Italy) was with her boyfriend Fedrick Swartling (from Scandinavia) listening to the third band, blues musician Carlos Guitarlos. "Oh, so many police! What happened?" asked Vitali when they reached Zip Fusion, guidebook in hand. They joined the Block Party for dinner and were debriefed about LA from tour guide ShainLA -- who was sitting at the same table.

JoseAs the last band, X Factor, began to set up it was clear that LAPD, residents, and businesses have been successful in supporting a neighborhood that has been active as a community for over 20 years. This night was a celebration of success, not an introduction of any new concepts.

Meanwhile, Diaz was at Traction and Hewitt––still on his way out.

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