Chicago area celebrates National Night Out

August 4, 2009 8:56:21 PM PDT
Thousands all over the nation took a stand against violence during the 26th annual National Night Out. Chicago and several suburbs took part in the event.

Some 377 million people around the country, and 15,000 communities, participated in the National Night Out around the country.

In the Chicago area, one of the largest events took place in Berwyn on Tuesday night.

It had the feel of a July 4th picnic, complete with fireworks. Look closer, however, and you saw kids trying on FBI swat team gear or crawling around in emergency vehicles.

One of the objectives of National Night Out was to demystify law enforcement.

"If they are aware that law enforcement officers are people they can talk to one-on-one and people that they don't have to fear, then they are more likely to call law enforcement when they see things going on," said Chief Bill Kushner, Berwyn Police Department.

FBI handed out hundreds of child identification kits in Berwyn. On Chicago's South Side, a blackhawk helicopter is the big attraction. Organizers want to bring people in the diverse Back of the Yards neighborhood together to fight crime.

"I am one of those persons that want to see everybody so I can know who I live around," said Phyllis Rufus.

"The big thing is that people take back their communities, people run these gang bangers out, people report any shootings or thing in their neighborhood, do what's right," said Ald. James Balcer, 11th Ward.

Other communities have their own take on National Night Out. Kids got to ride in fire buckets in Naperville. In Tinley Park, a police canine performed. And in Roselle, kids took over the climbing wall. On the South Side, Mayor Daley and Police Superintendent Jody Weis marched with residents, shouting down guns and crime. Then they remembered the students killed in the last school year, releasing 36 balloons into the sky.

"It's up to the people to say enough is enough, in your family, and in your home," said Mayor Daley.

The idea behind the National Night Out is to bring law enforcement and community members together in a way that lasts more than just one night. Officials in Berwyn said they believe they established some relationships that will help them fight crime all year long.


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