A few hundred Austin residents gathered in Moore Park last week to participate in National Night Out, an event held each summer to encourage community and stop crime.
Several officials, including Ald. Deborah Graham, Ald. Emma Mitts, 15th District Commander Barbara West and First Deputy Al Wysinger, took part.
Wysinger said he stopped by the event because the Austin community means a great deal to him and he supports its efforts to combat crime.
“It’s important for the community,” Wysinger said. ‘It’s also our way of letting the community know that we really want to make a difference and combat some of the violence.”
The Chicago Police Department partnered with local organizations and businesses, including MacArthur’s, the Westside Health Authority, Prevention Partnership and the 15th District CAPS office, to provide food and live entertainment.
Several local health organizations – including Harmony House, Loretto Hospital and the Family Health Network – participated, distributing health and insurance information to the public.
Adrianne Caver, a benefits consultant for Harmony House, said her group participated in National Night Out to educate the community about potential health benefits.
“We are here to educate families on benefits they could receive if they have the All Kids medical card,” Caver said. With major changes to federal healthcare laws, “they don’t understand all the resources that they have available to them.”
More than 37 million people are estimated to have participated in National Night Out in about 15,000 communities across the country.
For Austin residents like Delano McIntire, the event shined a positive light on Austin and the police, McIntire said.
McIntire said he felt the event was really good for Austin because more police visibility deters people from committing crimes. Engaging the youth makes them less likely to get into trouble, he said.
“[National Night Out] will change your mind about the community, and it’ll change your mind about the police because sometimes we look at police as the opposition,” McIntire said. “If you see the police every day … it’s not like a police-criminal interaction, it’s more so like we’re neighbors.”
Communities wanting to take part in next year’s National Night Out can learn more and register online at National Night Out’s web site.