Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Casseroles Vs. Neighborhood Crime

Posted By on Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 8:51 PM

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In the face of the staggering toll crime has taken on our city, going out to eat potluck casseroles and drink beer with neighbors this evening for the annual Night Out Against Crime events might seem like a puny gesture. What chance does a once-a-year social gathering have against the generations-deep epidemic of lawlessness that has cost this city so much?

From my own experience, I believe these events actually do a lot.

The Night Out Against Crime party in my own Mid-City neighborhood is always a pretty big deal, drawing neighbors from a few surrounding blocks. I know friends will be there, but more importantly I'll meet people who I recognize from around the neighborhood but don't know by name.

We'll have an excuse to mingle and do more than just wave to each other from our cars, bikes and porches on the way to somewhere else, always late. We have a chance to tell each other which house we live in, where we're from originally, why we came back after the flood.

Chatting together isn't going to stop crime, or convince some thug to go the straight and narrow. But knowing who your neighbors are, getting on a conversational basis with them, having some idea of what concerns them – all that makes a more cohesive neighborhood where people look out for one another, and can tell when something is off.

In the past, such connectivity has helped neighbors on our block track down and retrieve stolen property, apprehend a drunk driver who collided with a row of parked cars and at least temporarily chase off would-be car burglars working our blocks.

More than the practical network-building, I always find Night Out Against Crime a good morale boost. The high-level news feed from this town can make you wonder why anyone lives here. But getting together at social events with New Orleans people always makes me wonder how I could possibly live anywhere else.

Details on a few of the larger events are below. There are many neighborhood gatherings across the metro area, which are open to anyone who wants to drop by. If you have details of more parties around town, please share them below.

Lakeview -- A Business Block Party is held tonight from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Gulf Coast Bank & Trust (848 Harrison Ave.), along with numerous residential block parties.

Faubourg St. Roch – A community drum circle and fish fry are the highlights at this gathering at St. Roch / Harold Sampson, Jr. Park, 1830 St Roch Ave. It lasts from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Esplanade Ridge – The annual party at 3006 Esplanade Ave. bills itself as "New Orleans' Largest Night Out Against Crime Event," and it pulls out all the stops with a motor scooter raffle benefiting the local police district and a live band starring zydeco star Rockin' Doopsie Jr. The party goes from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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