INDIANAPOLIS — Tuesday night thousands of towns and cities across the country celebrated National Night Out, a time for police and first responders to interact with the community they serve.
Officials in Indianapolis say the annual tradition is more important this year, especially in Indy – as homicides reach record highs.
“We do have way too much gun violence,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said. “Nights like tonight I think improve the appreciation that the community has for the tough job law enforcement does and I know the officers appreciate getting out among people in the community without responding to a run.”
Coming together as a community to improve the relationship between police and the community they live in.
“So coming together in all four corners of our city… to celebrate law enforcement. To improve the relationship between law enforcement and members of our community… you just can’t do enough of it and that’s why I love nights like tonight,” Mayor Hogsett said. “We need something to celebrate and I would go so far as to say these last 18 months to two years may be one or two of the toughest years in the history of the city of Indianapolis.”
Canceled last year by COVID-19 restrictions, National Night Out is back. Officers across the country as using the time together as an opportunity to reach members of the community they normally would not see – it’s especially important for younger people.
“The main part about this is we’re reaching out to the younger people,” Captain Lawrence Wheeler of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said. “We’re having, you know, positive interactions. We’re having police interacting with the youth without any trauma or crime at that time. It builds up understanding. It builds up relationships and especially with the younger kids, that’s huge right there.”
Building those relationships through fun experiences, complete with hotdogs, dancing, prizes, face painting, and more…
“We have a lot of people out here today. We have a lot of diversity out here today. We have a lot of people that are enjoying their selves and the beautiful day,” Captain Wheeler said. “We’re able to go ahead and put ourselves out there, show these people what the community can do for us and what we can do for them.”
But aside from the party remains the realization, the crime is still here.
“Regardless of what, however, our community is doing, there’s always going to be violence. That’s just a fact,” 17-year-old Samir Taylor said. “It’s always going to be there. But things like this they do, you know, they help negate the violence. They help bring people together.”
Being together, as a united community, makes Samir feel like Tuesday night could be the start of something better in the city.
“Seeing stuff like this I know there’s people out there protecting the ones that I love. And that always makes me feel good,” Samir said. “Always makes me feel safe.”
Which is why this year’s rendition of this yearly celebration may be Indianapolis’ most important one yet.
“We’re working very diligently to fix this problem in our city,” Mayor Hogsett said. “Nights like tonight, I think they go a long way.”