Mercer Island's third annual National Night Out a success

Mercer Island's third annual National Night Out included 32 neighborhoods, more than 16 city officials and plenty of community involvement.

More than 50 people attended a gathering at Fruitland Landing for a potluck of homemade banana bread, finger sandwiches and other finger-food-fare.

Islanders — both new and old to the neighborhood — mingled on the grass as children splashed in Lake Washington or jumped to their hearts content in a large "Thomas the Train" bouncy house.

Nine-year neighborhood resident, Susan Edelheit, enjoys the island for its "small town feeling," and attributes some of the community cohesion to the island's geographic features.

"Our community is surrounded by water so it had a very defined boundary," she said. "Our community is pretty solid."

Carrie Wernick Newman organized the Fruitland Landing event, which was one of 32 socials this year and part of the original 18 neighborhoods that participated in Mercer Island's first National Night out three years ago.

While Islanders socialized with their neighbors the Mayor, several City Council members, police and fire Chiefs, fireman and other city staffers moved between the fetes and got to know the community they serve in an informal and relaxed atmosphere.

Emergency Preparedness Officer Jennifer Franklin and Director of Governmental Services Tim Stewart visited several National Night Out events Tuesday evening to educate Islanders about emergency preparedness and crime prevention.

Franklin and other teams gave out information and red emergency preparedness bags to the adults and coloring books, whistles and flashlights to the kids, she said.

Groups from all over the island participated, she said, from Island Point on the South-end to Fruitland Landing on the North-end and everywhere in between.

"A couple of areas went all out," she said.

Initiated in 1984, the project is designed to heighten awareness of crime and drug prevention, support local anticrime and emergency programs, strengthen community within neighborhoods, and foster police-community partnerships.

The program's inaugural event included 2.5 million people in 23 states. Several years back during the 24th annual event more than 35 million people in all 50 states participated.

Mercer Island isn't immune to crime. According to the Crime in Washington 2009 annual report, Mercer Island has a rate of 18.9 crimes per 1,000. This number is low when compared to neighboring cities such as Bellevue (34 crimes per 1,000) and Seattle (65 per 1,000) and in the broader context of King County, which logged nearly 48 crimes per 1,000. However, in the property crime category, there was an increase in incidents on Mercer Island from 2007 to 2009. The report shows that 418 property crimes occurred last year, compared to 400 reported property crimes in 2007.

On Mercer Island, where neighborhood crime is relatively low, National Night Out is more about meeting neighbors and knowing who's part of the community.

"There was a lot more people out this year," Franklin said. "It was a great time for neighbors to get together and get to know each other."

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