On Friday evening, October 28, 2016, Glendale celebrated its GAIN night (Getting Arizona Involved in Neighborhoods) at Murphy Park in downtown Glendale. It was a wonderful event but it was not a GAIN night. It could be characterized as a police expo, children’s trick or treat and an entertainment event but it was not a GAIN night. There were a tremendous number of booths available to the public from AARP to Glendale’s Justice Center and everything in between. All were eager to share information with the public about the services they offer. The police department had their SWAT vehicle and Command Center vehicle open for the public to view and to learn about their equipment and responsibilities. A local dance academy provided entertainment for the public. All of the kids were fantastic from the youngest dancers shaking their “tail feathers” to the older children performing hip hop. But none of this was GAIN night.
This is undoubtedly an event that has earned the right to become an annual event. But it was not GAIN night and should not take its place. GAIN night was designed to emphasize the importance of police-community partnerships and to encourage citizen involvement in fighting crime. In fact, some of the event visitors I met were from Surprise, Phoenix, etc.
During my time on city council up until I left at the end of 2012, neighborhoods, large and small, were encouraged to host a get together that brought neighbors together. The registered neighborhood could be as small as one street of 20 neighbors or as large as an HOA led subdivision of a 100 neighbors or better. Typically, neighbors would host a pot luck with activities for the neighborhood children. Everyone would sit around, eat and drink, and talk to one another.
Neighborhoods would be visited by police officers, often the very officers charged with patrolling their neighborhoods. They would meet face-to-face and neighbors would share their “atta boys/girls” and their concerns. They would also be visited by the nearest fire station and the kids had the opportunity to see those fire trucks, up close and personally. Councilmembers, when requested to do so by a neighborhood, would donate $50 out of their council budget, to help defray the cost of refreshments and they would stop by and visit as many neighborhoods as physically possible. While on council I looked forward to GAIN night as a way to reconnect with some neighborhoods and tried to visit as many GAIN neighborhood gatherings as humanly possible. Typically, I was usually able to stop by at least a dozen of them. The good thing about it was there were always more events than a person could visit.
We all know Arizona is a very transient state. People move in and out continually. People also change neighborhoods in an effort to upsize or downsize their homes or for any number of other reasons. Neighborhoods are in a continual flux. Often neighbors may know who lives on either side or across the street from their home but no one else.
One of the benefits of GAIN is that at least once a year it brought new and old neighbors together. It provided a venue to get to know one another. It provided an opportunity for neighbors to bond and to make new friendships – often long lasting. It encouraged them to discover who was a part of their neighborhood so that strangers in a neighborhood could be more easily identified.
Another benefit was that it provided neighborhoods the chance to meet and to develop relationships with the very police officers that served their neighborhood. Councilmembers used this event to reconnect with some of their neighborhoods and to learn what was going well and what needed attention. GAIN in that format did exactly what it was designed to do.
Glendale should continue to promote the police expo. It, too, serves a purpose but it should be considered as an adjunct to the traditional (at least 15 year old) GAIN night. Let’s get back to building neighborhoods by building relationships within them.
© Joyce Clark, 2016
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