National Night Out builds trust in communities

By Matt Porter |

Published 08/05 2014 10:45PM

Updated 08/06 2014 02:23PM

SPRINGFIELD -- Hundreds turned out for several block parties across the state capital as part of the National Night Out. Police say community cookouts filled with music and dancing are perfect ways to build trust between neighbors and police.

The National Night Out is a 31-year tradition where communities gather to "take back the night" in support of preventing crime and violence. For John Dorsey, one of Springfield's eight neighborhood police officers, getting to know his neighbors is part of violence prevention.

"They can come out and meet us and see we're people just like you guys are,” Dorsey said. “We're out here doing a job trying to help you."

Dorsey is on call for people living around his beat and said getting to know his neighborhood is crucial.

"There's way more people living in the community then there are police officers working in your community,” he said.

And community activists, including Kim Luz, director of community outreach of Saint John’s Hospital, say you have to start young. The hospital provides a program for youth to teach them good exercise habits including a dance class. The positive activity has a second goal of keeping those in at-risk neighborhoods away from trouble.

"If we're instilling those behaviors from a young age, then we are preventing other behaviors from forming,” Luz said.

Saint John's program shows children how to play safely and exercise inside because some of its children live in neighborhoods where it's not as safe to play outside.

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