CHICAGO (WLS) --Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel were among the officials participating in National Night Out, which aims to bring police and communities together against violence and crime.
Events were held throughout Chicago and the suburbs. In west suburban Lisle, Ill., the event held on the campus of Benedictine University featured safety demonstrations, food and drinks, and games for children. Mayor Emanuel participated in an event in Chicago's Roseland neighborhood, while Supt. Johnson was at an event in Kells Park in Garfield Park. There were at least 25 events planned.
Supt. Johnson greeted residents in Garfield Park, where music and food were served with a message.
"Please have fun, enjoy yourself and please, please approach us and talk to us," Dept. Chief James Jones told attendees. The goal of the night was to get residents engaged in making their neighborhoods safer, and to send a message to gang members that crime will not be tolerated.
Mayor Emanuel said police need the help of concerned residents.
"The partnership we see right here is stronger than the fear the gang bangers are spreading," he said.
All this comes in the midst of a violence summer in Chicago; according to Chicago police the number of shootings and shooting victims during the first half of 2016 is up 50 percent compared to 2015.
"I totally appreciate and the department appreciates this bonding that we're doing today.
"Yes, there has been a lot of violence within the city. But when you come out to events like this, you feel the embrace. You feel the love. You see the unity," said Katrina Thompson, who is on the West Humboldt Park Development Council.
The effort to improve community relations comes after the most recent officer-involved fatal shooting of an unarmed man on the South Side. Police say Paul O'Neal hit two squad cars in a stolen vehicle before getting out and being shot in the back by an officer. The three officers at that scene have been relieved of their duties as the Independent Police Review Authority investigates.
Some who attended the events said in addition to closer ties between police and the public, more opportunities for young people must also be part of the effort to reduce crime.