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Aurora neighbors gather,  bond and stand up to crime

Sue KleakPancakes Clown grabs more paint as she paints butterfly face Katie Nowachek Georgetown Elementary School during National Night Out

Sue Klein, aka Pancakes the Clown, grabs more paint as she paints a butterfly on the face of Katie Nowachek at Georgetown Elementary School during a National Night Out celebration on Tuesday, August 7, 2012. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 9, 2012 6:21AM

Billed as a “goodbye party to crime,” dozens of residents of Aurora’s Georgetown Relief Efforts Neighborhood Organization held a picnic Tuesday evening in the park complete with a band, ice cream, clown, face painting and various exhibits.

Boy Scouts from Troop 123 opened the festivities with a pledge of allegiance, and then neighbors began meeting each other to catch up on what happened over the summer and what to anticipate this fall.

As part of the National Night Out, the residents gathered to talk to each other, learned about crime prevention and said they are bonding together to say no to crime.

“My son was held at gunpoint and robbed for some pocket change and gum,” Dee Hakala said as to why she was instrumental in beginning the annual program back in 2004.

Aurora Community Police Officer Scott Carter said crime in the Far East Side neighborhood has taken a drastically downward spiral over the past several years and that events such as the one held Tuesday night are the reason.

“We get to know the residents and they know us,” he said. “If there are any issues they need help with, they have my cell number and they call me — we take care of it.”

Carter handed out bags containing anti-bullying bracelets, crayons, crime prevention literature and information on how to get ahold of community police.

Lucy Smith of AmeriCorps also talked with residents about being neighbors. “We work to bring residents together. We don’t want the immigrant and non-immigrant divide — this is more social,” she said of her efforts in the community.

Other vendors on hand included various merchants and one aspiring entrepreneur, Alexis Rodlein. “I make several items out of duct tape,” she said of the purses, wallets, flowers and flip-flops at her table. She also said she is already working on a formal dress — made entirely of duct tape.

Kris Harvey also helps with the Annual Night Out and said the Georgetown residents all look forward to the events. “We get people out to do things and get to know each other,” she said. “When something isn’t right, we report it.”

In the Georgetown neighborhood, some 650 homeowners banded together to form the group. In the area that straddles the 8th and 9th Ward, some 2,400 homes comprise those who attend the party.

Group organizers say none of the social interaction and low crime would have taken place years ago. “The City of Aurora has been very helpful and has done a lot for the community,” said Hakala.

National Night Out began in 1984 as an effort to strengthen resident participation in anti crime efforts.

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