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A Night Out fighting crime
Willows law enforcement agencies were fighting crime Tuesday, but not in the traditional way.
Just as thousands of communities participated in "National Night Out" events all over the country, Willows' finest hosted its fifth annual Night Out to reach out to citizens.
Willows Chief of Police Bill Spears said National Night Out not only highlights crime and drug prevention awareness, but fosters community spirit and police-community involvement.
Hundreds of people gathered near the intersection of North Butte and West Sycamore streets to enjoy good food, fun and games and interact with each other in a positive environment.
And while there were plenty of tacos and hot dogs to go around, the real goal of the event was to strengthen community spirit.
"We have law enforcement, the fire department and lots of businesses, schools and non profit organizations, all with information to share," Spears said. "If we help one person unite with an organization, a business or another person — and they benefited from it — then we call that a success."
Spears said National Night Out allowed Willows residents to interact and exchange information with neighbors, their first responders and, at the same time, send a powerful message to criminals that Willows citizens, its business people and its agencies are organized and willing to fight back against crime.
"All of these things together are the juices of our community," Spears said. "This is what makes Willows - Willows."
Last year, 37 million people in the United States, Canadian cities, American territories and military bases participated in National Night Out events, according to the National Association of Town Watch, who organized the first event 29 years ago.
In the five years since the Willows Police Department started the local campaign, participation has more than quadrupled.
More than 50 vendors, including the California Highway Patrol, the U.S. Forest Service, the Glenn County Sheriff's Office, Willows Police Explorers and Willows Volunteers in Police Service participated with information booths or interactive games, up from 12 in 2007.
Hundreds of people came downtown for the event.
Lamb Derby Princess Emily Beatty strolled through the event with friends, enjoying the various vendors and interacting with the community.
"It's a lot of fun," she said, indicating the tacos alone were worth the trip downtown.
Cynthia Roach, who took her two children and a friend to the event, said National Night Out gets better each year and is an excellent way to meet community members, to get to know the police and firemen or talk with neighbors and friends.
"I like that it brings the community together," she said. "It's just a great event to have in Willows."
About the only thing missing in Willows was live music, something that brought people down and kept them at the National Night Out event in Orland.
While kids especially enjoyed activities like the bucket brigade with the Willows Fire Department and adults enjoyed talking with each of the venders, most said they would like more entertainment at the event to make their annual night out even more memorable and fun.
"We're definitely going to get a band next year," Spears said, after word circulated that popular Northern Heat was at Orland's National Night Out.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.