Champaign neighborhoods celebrate community while curbing crime

CHAMPAIGN—People across the country learned how to keep their own neighborhood safe Tuesday during National Night Out and the message is hitting close to home in Champaign.

National Night Out is nothing new for the people of Champaign as they have recognized the day with events in previous years. But in light of this summer's surge in violence, Tuesday's neighborhood activities served as a reminder that police are protectors and not enemies.

Andre Britten moved to Champaign's Garden Hills neighborhood last year, and while there are many things he loves about his location, there are still some serious issues he says need to be addressed.

“There's a lot of needless and senseless violence and I always pray that it can change,” said Britten.

Champaign police officers hope for the same, which is why they were stationed in various neighborhoods Tuesday evening for National Night Out, an event aimed at curbing crime while strengthening the community with food, fun, and friendship.

“When they see the uniform they get intimidated they shy away from it, “ said Sergeant Jason Yandell of the Champaign Police Department. “We're trying to bridge that gap and let them know that we are just people.”

People that rely on these residents in order to protect them.

“The community members are our eyes and ears of what goes on out here,” said Yandell. “And [we're] building or bridging those gaps with the community and trying to get them to provide us information when necessary.”

Because when those gaps are filled, information flows freely.

“I learned some new information while I was here tonight too,” said Yandell. “And I work this area. I'm the night shift supervisor, so it was things that they told me tonight that I was unaware of, so it's information sharing on both sides.

And when both sides work together, a united front is formed.

“It's cool to see people all around, coming out in their neighborhoods and communities hopefully we can send a message that some of the stuff that's been going on isn't tolerated,” said Britten.

 So the senseless violence Britten sees in his community can come to an end.

Seven Champaign neighborhoods hosted events for National Night Out, while a community celebration was held at Douglass Park. Those neighborhoods received grants from the city to plan their activities.

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