VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — It was National Night Out all across Hampton Roads, and in Virginia Beach, police had one event aimed at building relationships with the Latino community.
Maria Razdykov, one of the store owners at La Tapatia 2 on Virginia Beach Boulevard near the Oceanfront, said she approached Virginia Beach police about getting this event together.
"The community was always coming to us," she said.
Her customers and others in the Latino community turned to her with questions or help, versus the police.
"Most of the Latinos in the area are more scared than they feel secured and trust," she said.
There are certain topics that Razdykov hears a lot about that are uncomfortable for some of her neighbors, such as immigration, traffic stops, and domestic incidents.
"We want our people to feel secure and feel welcome to come say, 'Hey. We've got this issue. What can we do?' So, we're coming together," she said.
So, to help build that trust, she invited Virginia Beach police over for National Night Out, hoping to build a bridge where there hasn't quite been one before.
"Events like this remind us, all of us, as officers, that this still exists and people still are afraid of the police for a variety of reasons, whether warranted or unwarranted," said Captain Shannon Witchendahl. "They can trust us when we say we hear their concerns. We value them."
"Our Hispanic and Latino community is part of our community and we don't get by without them and they don't get by without us," said Sen. Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach).
Razdykov and her neighbors think there's more fear today than there have been in recent memory, as a Latino person, because of the political climate and tragedies like the one in El Paso where investigators believe the shooter targeted immigrants and Latinos. But Razdykov hopes a strong relationship with police can help ease fears.
"That's what we're hoping, hoping we can all become one community," she said.