PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — It’s a national campaign, aiming to promote police and community relations, as well as neighborhood safety.
National Night Out Against Violence is celebrated on the first Tuesday in August. Peoria’s National Night Out events, Tuesday evening, combined food and festivities with the public and police.
More than 20 National Night Out events kicked off throughout the city, and many who came out said one of the biggest ways to unite the city is to start building relationships with those who live in their communities.
“We want every single person of every walk of life to be welcome here,” Seth Major, a resident of the North Valley area, said. “For us to be under the same roof, in the same place, means a lot for us.”
Those in Peoria’s North Valley area said one of the biggest focuses was building neighborhood relationships.
“After not being able to be connected with our neighbors as much as we’d like to, an event like this goes a long way for there to be activity and life again in the neighborhood,” Major said. “Anytime that residents of a neighborhood can build a bridge with city entities, I think is really important, and stuff like this helps.”
Major said he’s lived in the North Valley neighborhood for two years. He said after a crazy 2020, he’s happy the neighborhood had the chance to come together, share information, and put a face to those who serve and protect them.
“A lot of times we just read about them or hear about them, but we don’t know any officers’ names,” Major said. “Events like this go a long with humanizing the police force.”
Over in the city’s Randolph-Roanoake area, around 6 p.m., it was a sizzling buzz of activities. Children, parents, police, and firefighters all mingled.
“We are here to support them and their cause,” Lt. Michael Boland with the Peoria Police Department, said. “We’re here to support the community because generally they only meet us in a crisis situation.”
Lt. Boland said strengthening officer and community relationships can be a major step in uniting the city, reducing crime, and breaking down the barriers between officer and neighbor.
“It’s a lot better for us to come out shake hands, meet people, make small talk, show them that we’re real people as well,” Boland said.
The same rang true for Nate Rice, the Division Chief of Fire Prevention.
“Community events are what’s going to improve a lot of the things in our neighborhoods,” Rice said. “The firehouses in the neighborhoods, they want to get out and be a part of this event whenever possible.”
David Stotz, a resident in the neighborhood, said they’re always welcome to do so.
“It has a huge impact to know the resident police officers, to know the officers that are servicing your community,” Stotz said. “Peoria’s a great place and anytime you can make Peoria a part of your family it’s a good thing for the community.”