Richmond celebrates Nat'l Night Out

August 4, 2009 11:57:08 PM PDT
A nationwide effort to get neighbors working with neighbors to prevent crime is marking its 26th year. It comes at a critical time for the City of Richmond where the homicide rate has skyrocketed in recent weeks.

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The event was held within the context of a very violent year. Much of that violence is blamed on an ongoing turf battle among rival groups that claim allegiance to different parts of town. The goal Tuesday night was to bring everyone together as one community.

All day Tuesday, Richmond was a community preparing to celebrate all that is good in their neighborhoods while working to heal the wounds from a very violent six months. While police statistics show homicide down 20 percent and assault with firearms down almost a third, Richmond has seen 30 homicides so far this year, three more than last year's total.

"I think this year, because of all the things that have been going on and the violence in the community, it's important to send a strong message that there still is hope in the City of Richmond, that we have a strong community base that's working on different projects, and that we really believe that working together we can impact the situation," organizer Michelle Milam told ABC7.

"Neighbors matter," was the theme for this year's National Night out in Richmond. It is a year that has already seen 30 murders, three more than all of 2008.

"People get scared when violence occurs in their neighborhood. This gives them a chance to, give them a friendly face to turn to, and even turn to their neighbors and say, "Let's do this together," and come to the police department and say, 'Hey, we saw this.' Just, any information that they can bring to us," Richmond Police Sgt. Bisa French said.

The Crescent Park Neighborhood is one in Richmond that has remade itself with fresh paint and programs aimed at keeping kids off the streets. But, problems persist. Last week, a young couple was shot to death in their car at a stoplight. Tuesday night, about 800 people came out to meet their 45 person police force.

The goal of National Night Out is to prevent future violence.

"People need to talk with each other. People need to share their stories. People need to talk about the positive aspects that the future will bring," said Crescent Park organizer Kelly Crowell.

One big goal of Tuesday night's event was to foster better relationships between the police and the community members. Motorcyle cops planned to caravan to 20 different block parties, all part of the National Night Out event, to meet and greet people.

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