URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – Police officers and other emergency workers filled the U of I Arboretum Tuesday night. It wasn’t for an emergency call, though. It was for an event meant to bring people together.
The “National Night Out” campaign started almost 40 years ago in just 400 places. Now, 16,000 communities across the country celebrate with block parties, cookouts and more – all to promote strong relationships between neighbors and law enforcement.
“This is the first year in several years that Champaign-Urbana has brought the program here in this area, so we’re proud to bring it back,” UIPD Director of Community Development and Engagement Dementro Powell said.
The U of I police department hosted about a dozen other organizations like the NAACP and Urbana Library for an evening that was all about connecting with each other.
“Bringing police, fire, ambulance and the community together with different activities for a fun-filled day,” Powell said.
The idea is to make Urbana feel like a safe place to be. But it’s also about further improving safety and preventing crime.
“You’ve got gun violence, there’s all kinds of sexual assault issues, things of that nature, but what we’re out here doing is really trying to prove and show that our community is a safe one,” Powell said.
Curiosity led some families to show up, and one man said it was a good chance to get to know emergency service workers of Champaign County.
“We never know who’s keeping us safe. So it’s important to understand how they work,” David Butra said.
Children like Butra’s son were especially interested in the fire department’s demonstrations. They were able to get a behind the scenes look at the job.
“He loves firetrucks. It’s a rare opportunity to touch and talk with them. So it’s a nice event,” Butra said.
He said it was nice to spend the day appreciating the people who keep him safe.
“We need more of this kind of event in the future,” Butra said.