The evening included games, food, music and a skills performance from the Chicago Public Schools Viking football team, among other activities – all with the goal of preventing crime and reducing the use of drugs in Austin.
The Aug. 7 National Night Out event was held by police districts across Chicago and the rest of the country.
Alds. Deborah Graham (29th) and Jason Ervin (28th), 15th District Police Commander Barbara West and members of the local faith-based institutions also spent a night at the park, located at Kinzie Avenue and Pine Street.
“We should make every night a national night out, because what we are trying to do is fight and keep our streets safe from gangs and drugs,” West said.
Ervin spoke at the event and thanked the police for their service to the community.
“It’s not just the police; it’s not just the alderman. It’s all three of us with the community working together to solve the problems of our community,” Ervin said.
West said it’s important to give police a handshake or a pat on the back, because they don’t meet the best of people on the street sometimes.
“Please be appreciative of the police. They are working hard for you everyday,” West said.
With the “tragedies going on in the world today,” the community and police have to recreate the bond of trust, West said.
“Neighbors are not even talking to their next door neighbors anymore,” she said. “People who live on the same block don’t know they live on the same block anymore, because we’ve become so separate and put ourselves inside our houses.”
She said the community can no longer lock its doors, draw its shades and ignore what’s happening in Austin.
“When we do that, we have these tragedies like little Heaven Sutton who got shot,” she said.
Graham agreed, saying when people in a community don’t speak up, their homes will not be safe.
“You’ve got to come out of those homes,” she said. “We cannot keep secrets anymore.”
She said residents should provide something for young people to look forward to, because they are the future.
“We want our young people to wake up and know that there is hope,” she said. “You can succeed. There is a future out there for you besides standing on the corner and being Chicago’s terrorists.”