CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) - It's National Night Out, a chance for neighbors to join with police in efforts to keep the streets safe from crime.
It can happen anywhere, as it did last spring at Cheektowaga Town Park. National Night Out took on special significance in the park when two months ago, a 19-year-old man was shot and killed.
National Night Out was started to prevent the kind of violence crime that took 19-year-old Ira Watkins' life , so it's both ironic and somewhat fitting that the annual community night was held in Cheektowaga Town Park, just steps away from where Watkins was shot and killed two months ago.
Robyn Zielinski said, "You see a lot of gangs walking through the park and walking down the street."
Zielinski remembers watching police cars come speeding through her neighborhood into the park on the night of the murder. Since then, police have increased patrols in the park, and Zielinski has noticed a difference.
"I've seen less and less [criminal] activity over here, whereas before there was tons and tons of people over here. So the police presence has definitely put a deterrent on them," said Zielinski.
Tuesday night's events gave Zielinski and other residents a chance to interact with the men and women who are working to keep the park safe.
Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Mary Holtz said, "People are just out there having a good time, communicating, talking. Our police are doing their little demonstrations. It's a good public community thing for the town.
In Firemen's Park in Depew, village residents came out for their first National Night Out in more than three years and some long overdue face time with police, firefighters, and other emergency personnel.
Depew Night Out Chairman Officer David Anthony said, "The purpose of events like this is to strengthen the community. It gives people the chance to meet these organizations. Out here, when it's a friendly environment, when they can see what it's all about, ask questions."
The community outreach component of National Night Out is becoming bigger and bigger every year.
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