Pittsburgh neighborhoods stand against crime on National Night Out

'all walks of life coming together'

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In 24 hours, Monticello Street in Homewood transformed from the site of a homicide arrest to a celebration of community.

The block party there Tuesday evening was just one of many events across the city and the nation marking the 30th anniversary of National Night Out, a chance for people to stand up to crime and take back their streets.

Loud music and the smell of grilled hamburgers and fresh funnel cakes filled Monticello as children biked, danced and played catch. Inside her home, Lawanda Long, 52, scooped heaps of macaroni and cheese, green beans and fried chicken onto plates to be distributed among volunteers.

"This is a solid block," she said, circling her dining room table covered in food to be served. "You have people of all walks of life coming together when it matters."

Communities from Alabaster, Ala., to Rawlins, Wyo., gathered for National Night Out to "promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, neighborhood camaraderie and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back," according to its website.

For the second year in a row, 27 Pittsburgh neighborhoods participated, with about the same number of expected participants, between 3,500 and 3,700, according to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office.

This year, however, about 48 events were planned, up from 40 last year. Ms. Long said she anticipated about 300 attendees at the Homewood block party by nightfall.

As she assembled plate after plate of food, state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington, strolled into her dining room to tell her the block party had a few special guests: Zone 5 Cmdr. Timothy O'Connor, public safety director Michael Huss and Sgt. Tom Huerbin.

"Thank Jesus!" she said.

Mr. Huss said he tries to visit several communities' National Night Out events each year. Before he stopped in Homewood, he said he had swung by Westwood and East Liberty and hoped to make it to Squirrel Hill and Hazelwood.

"Homewood is a strong community that has had negative, unfortunate incidents," he said, adding that when people come together, like on National Night Out, they make their neighborhoods safer.

"A lot of people say Homewood has a reputation," Cmdr. O'Connor said. "But they don't know the people in Homewood."

Events like National Night Out show that there is hope in the East End, he said.

"I wish every night was National Night Out."

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