Happening later today: food and festivities in Chicago parks. It’s National Night Out. The annual tradition brings together community and police to build trust, but some organizers aren’t stopping there.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory brings us to one neighborhood that’s been promoting fun for kids and officers all summer.
The buzz at Moran Park in Englewood hasn’t always been the best. Cleaning up the area’s reputation for violence is no small task.
“When I plan events here, I have to worry every day if there’s a shooting, or if there’s a fight, or if there would be any kind of retaliation,” said Renee Howell-Collins, who serves at secretary for the Moran Park Advisory Council.
Her daily grind to make improvements to the green space has made a difference. Moran Park was chosen to be this year’s host for the Chicago Police Department 7th (Englewood) District’s National Night Out.
“Our small, little park being picked? God, it is the greatest gift that God could give us,” said Howell-Collins, who stopped our interview to cheer on Chicago Park District crews that were trimming trees, blowing leaves, cutting grass and more on Monday, ahead of Tuesday’s event.
National Night Out (NNO) happens across the County, bringing together uniformed officers and community members every year.
Pha’tal Perkins was crucial in the 2021 planning of the 7th District’s NNO. He serves as coordinator for T.I.M.E 21:36, a new public safety project in Englewood, which does community work through a U.S. Department of Justice grant. The acronym stands for “This Is My Englewood” and the numbers are the last two digits of the neighborhood’s zip codes.
“We can’t police our way out of the issues that our community faces, as it relates to the violence. It really takes the community to come together to be the solution that we want to see,” said Perkins, who acknowledges that is a message many have heard before.
But to hammer it home and not have National Night Out be a one-and-done function in Englewood, Perkins and Howell-Collins have organized events at Moran Park all summer. Free games and food attract young kids and elderly residents alike.
“It’s one of those things where we’ve created, like, this movement; and it’s growing,” said Perkins.
Shootings are up, but overall crime in the 7th District is down 25% in the past four years.
That’s overall crime reduction is undoubtedly caused by a combination of factors, but Howell-Collins can’t discount the little things like prettying-up the park.
As Chicago Park District and maintenance crews wrapped up tree trimming, she squealed with excitement and explained, “It’ll be easier for us to put tents up. It’ll be easier for me to keep an eye on the children.”
A total of 156 cities and towns in Illinois are hosting National Night Out events. Anyone is welcome. Food and games are free.
Englewood’s National Night Out runs from 3pm-7pm at Moran Park (5727 S Racine) on Tuesday.
Several other Chicago neighborhoods will hold events on Tuesday including: