Last year, it was a gang fight that disrupted Fourth of July festivities for Stacey Liddiard's family.

Two years ago, her toddler son handed over a used syringe he'd found in the gutter outside. Last month, a man picked up a prostitute two houses away from where Liddiard's children played in their yard.Yet the mother of four has no intention of leaving her hometown.

With crime on the nation's mind more than ever, citizens like Liddiard are searching for answers and finding them in prevention. Consequently, programs like the national Night Out Against Crime are reporting record interest. Nearly every Salt Lake-area police agency will observe the anti-crime event this year with a variety of activities.

"There's nothing bigger on anyone's mind than crime," said South Salt Lake Officer Beau Babka. "We've piqued their interest (with crime prevention programs) because people are fed up."

Liddiard, 30, says she'll be taking her kids to the city's Night Before the Night Out festivities Monday and attending a neighborhood block party Tuesday.

"It's a protest, that's the way I feel about it," she said. "It's a protest against the people that do the crimes."

The Liddiards' problem may be unusual - not every family watches prostitutes ply their wares next door - but the proximity of a criminal element is not uncommon.

Citizens across the valley are similarly affected by crime. Drug houses, gangs and random violence can be found in every community, regardless of police jurisdiction or neighborhood boundaries.

"I grew up in South Salt Lake," Liddiard said. "I've just moved back . . . the last two years and, for me, it's been more like `clean up the home town.' "

Liddiard said she didn't recognize the encroachment of crime until it affected her personally and she got involved in local prevention efforts. Now, the neighbors along her street are working with Babka to develop a neighborhood watch. Such prevention programs, including Night Out Against Crime, could be citizens' greatest weapon, many say.

"Saturday afternoon, it was a couple weeks ago, I came off of State Street up our street and I watched a man pick up a hooker right on the corner, on my street," she said, later adding that such incidents surprise some community members. "I think (citizens) need some more motivation to become interested. Especially with our community, most of it is older, retired people that just don't think it happens here or think it's the younger people that need to fight it."

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Anti-crime activities Monday and Tuesday

Police agencies across the Salt Lake Valley will celebrate the National Night Out Against Crime with activities Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 1-2. On Tuesday, citizens are encouraged to turn on their outdoor lights and join their neighbors in protesting crime at area block parties or city activities.

Most law enforcement-sponsored Night Out parties include crime-prevention demonstrations, child identification, security specialists, door prizes, food and displays of various emergency equipment. A limited number of free Master Lock gun locks will be available from the Salt Lake City-County Health Department and local law enforcement agencies.

In South Salt Lake, crime-awareness seminars also are scheduled for each half-hour Monday. Stage events, clowns and entertainment are on tap at the Night Before Night Out celebration in Salt Lake City's Gallivan Center.

Monday, Aug. 1:

- South Salt Lake, 7-10 p.m., South Salt Lake City Hall parking area, 220 E. Morris Ave. (2430 South).

- Salt Lake City, 5:30-10:30 p.m., Gallivan Utah Center Plaza, 200 S. State.

Tuesday, Aug. 2:

- Sandy, 4-9 p.m., Sandy Mall, 9400 S. 700 East.

- Murray, 6-9 p.m., 49th Street Galleria, 4998 S. 360 West.

- Cottonwood Heights, 7-9 p.m., 7500 S. 2700 East.

- Taylorsville, 7-9 p.m., 4721 S. Redwood Rd.

- Millcreek, James Madison Park, 1100 W. 3300 South.

- East Millcreek, Evergreen Park, 2230 E. Evergreen Ave. (3435 South).

- Draper, 6-9 p.m., Albertson's parking lot, 12300 S. 1300 East.