LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The weather was a perfect for a party, and hundreds of people went to parties aimed at making Little Rock safer.
Arkansas celebrated National Night Out on Tuesday. National Night Out is a national initiative to unite communities and improve relationships between communities and local law enforcement. It was founded more than 20 years ago and continues to grow in popularity.
“Last year we had five parties in our neighborhood,” explained Paul Kroger, a resident of the Otter Creek subdivision. “This year we had 15 different parties.”
The City of Little Rock sponsored 15 parties, while several neighborhoods put on their own, and there were big parties in almost every city in central Arkansas.
Families hosted parties up and down the streets of Otter Creek Tuesday, and kids played games in driveways. Kroger noticed that it differs from most nights, when people come home after work and stay inside.
“Times like this get us reconnected, or maybe just connected for the first time with people that are in our neighborhood,” he mentioned, “and that is a huge value.”
Some police officers joined the fun, but the neighbors make sure to do their part to protect their neighborhood.
“We collect phone numbers for all our neighbors,” said Ed Titus, who chairs the neighborhood’s crime watch committee, “and so if a neighbor sees something suspicious going on at a house, he knows who to call, he knows the phone number, and who the people are.”
Titus and Kroger both mentioned that burglary rates have fallen recently in Otter Creek. They give some credit to parties like these, for helping neighbors know—and care—more about the people who live next door.
“I guess we’re doing something right,” Titus said. “We’re making criminals feel like they should probably go someplace else to do their mischief.”
While many of the parties focused on fun, an event at the Mann Road Resource Center was more educational in nature. Edmond Davis, a professor and public speaker, gave a presentation about what citizens should do during interactions with police officers.
The party at the Mann Road Resource Center was about how to work with the police. What to do and what not to do when you interact with an officer.
“A lot of kids like me in my school don’t see things like this,” said Parkview High School student Spencer McElway, “so a lot of them do the wrong things, or they may have wrong thoughts. So, I wanted to come here so I can learn more, so I can go back to my school and tell people what they need to know, as far as interactions with policemen.”
Roughly 40 people attended the presentation, and even some of the older people in the crowd learned new ways to prevent a situation from escalating. A handful of police officers also attended, in part to answer questions or provide additional information. They recognized the need to help people understand how they think when they are on duty. Recent videos depicting police brutality have changed the way many people view police officers, though they say little has actually changed.
“And it is a big issue,” stated Sgt. Willie Davis. “But I think by and large, we can deal with it. We can do discussions, conversations with law enforcement agencies. You know, people like that, they can come to the table and talk about -solutions.”