CHICAGO (CBS) — National Night Out is a time for police and the community to connect – but the task is easier said than done.
So in one of Chicago’s high-crime areas, a new approach was taken Tuesday night.
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As CBS 2’s Steven Graves reported, the goal was to take back a place of fun and joy in Englewood that has fallen into danger. Some of the very youngest impacted by gun violence in the area said more of it needs to happen.
“I love Englewood!” said 9-year-old Amier Pope.
Amier wanted us to show on this National Night Out, he has more pride in his Chicago neighborhood than ever.
Graves asked Amier if he had ever seen anything around his neighborhood like the event in Moran Park, 5727 S. Racine Ave.
“No, not at all,” he said. “My favorite part is the rock climbing.”
And among all the community resources and fun and games, seeing police officers in this light – having fun – is different for him.
“I like police officers,” Amier said, “nut I just don’t want to meet a mean one, because that would be so scary sometimes.”
Chicago Police chose to host the event in Moran Park for the first time this year to help address that issue.
“There’s a history of challenges here at this park,” said Chicago Police Englewood (7th) District community policing Sgt. Enrico Dixon. “When this park is only occupied by people who intend on continuously committing mischief, it don’t allow the kids space.”
Almost two years ago, a mass shooting happened blocks from the park at a home. Thirteen people were shot.
“I would say every single person in this park has been a victim of gun violence,” said Marshawna Howel.
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Howel, a violence interrupter, said it is both physical and emotional – which leads to less talking with each other and police.
“People are just in fear of their lives,” she said.
And the youngest of people seeing and living it.
“People just do crazy stuff around here,” said Amier.
Police say a lot of the change starts with kids like Ameir.
“Events like this are what are needed to help foster those better relationships,” Dixon said.
The 9-year-old is just asking for some help in return. He said he would like to see more such events, “because it’s fun!”
“This is only the beginning, that we are working every day to make sure that every day will be fun; that he deserves the quality of life just as any other child in Chicago,” said Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th).
Amier: “I hope I’m going to be safe when I get home, and happy.”
Graves: “That’s all you want to be is happy?”
Amier: “Yes. I want to be happy.”
As the event Tuesday night wrapped up around 7 p.m., the sad reality is that shootings in Englewood have increased from last year. But overall crime is actually on a steady decline.
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Police and community leaders hope to host events like this to keep that trend going.