AURORA, Ill. - Residents of Chicago's most violent neighborhoods say they aren't going to let criminals run the streets anymore.
On Tuesday night, neighborhoods across the city and suburbs took part in National Night Out.
National Night Out was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
Aurora officials put a huge emphasis on the celebration, with 22 events scheduled around the city that started in the afternoon and ended at 9 p.m.
"We’re doing it up pretty big," said Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. "It’s been a couple years since we had the opportunity to have a National Night Out. And I think after all we’ve gone through the past couple years it’s time to celebrate our first responders and show them we appreciate their service."
National Night Out started in 1984 and is held on the first Tuesday of every August to build communities and promote strong police and public relationships.
Last year‘s events were canceled because of COVID-19, and a handful of communities are postponing this year’s celebration until this fall because of the Delta variant.
But there are events scheduled Tuesday in scores of Chicago-area suburbs and northwest Indiana as well as the city of Chicago.
Aurora’s incoming police chief says National Night Out is important for his department because it helps people see the police as their neighbors, not their enemies.
"To me it’s one of the biggest things that we do year round," said Aurora Police Chief-elect Keith Cross. "The Department really has two goals. One is to reduce violent crime. The other is to increase community engagement. And to me they both go hand-in-hand. So it’s very important for us to get out into the community, interact with the citizens."
The city of Chicago also held numerous events Tuesday night across the city, including in one of the most violent neighborhoods.
"It's so bad, the kids can't even sit on their front porch without getting shot or anything like that, they can't even go to the restaurant, or the McDonalds, none of that without getting shot," said Shantonnaa Smith, who was at an event in Englewood.
She joined hundreds of other Englewood residents at Moran Park, which is one of the deadliest areas of the city.
The 7th district police and the nonprofit ‘This is My Englewood’ funded the block party with live music, free food and goodies to get the kids ready for school.
"We do not accept violence in our neighborhood in our community, but we have to do all the work that has to be done to reduce violence with this community," said CPD Supt. David Brown.