Thousands of Southern Californians took to the streets Tuesday night--attending block parties, marches and candlelight vigils--as part of an annual national anti-crime effort called National Night Out.
"The basic premise is to increase public awareness of crime and crime prevention," said Sheriff's Deputy Harry Bovie, who organized a march from the department's Temple City station. "We want to send a message to criminals that we're organized and we're fighting back. We also want to develop a partnership between the people and the deputies in the area."
In past years, during the annual National Night Out, more than 20 million people in about 8,000 communities took part.
In Southern California, the 13th annual event was coordinated by Neighborhood Watch groups, city governments and police departments.
The Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Division organized one of the city's largest gatherings. A total of 1,500 people marched to the station from locations in the neighborhood. At the station were bands, speakers and free hot dogs.
Pat Payuyo, 40, and her three children joined a procession in Echo Park for the combination rally, party and flashlight vigil against crime.
She marched with dozens of people to the Rampart Station where they met with others from throughout the neighborhood. Some marchers carried banners and balloons and chanted: "No more drugs. No more prostitutes. No more gangbangers."
At a gathering organized by a sheriff's station, about 40 people marched along a stretch of Colorado Boulevard near Pasadena that has long been plagued by prostitution. A recent crackdown by sheriff's deputies has cut down on the problem, residents said.
"But if we don't keep the pressure on, it's going to come back," said Gary Larson, owner of an insurance agency on Colorado Boulevard.
National Night Out is sponsored by the National Organization of Town Watch, a nonprofit umbrella group for local neighborhood watch and patrol groups.