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'I want the community to see us;' Hampton Roads law enforcement agencies celebrate 'National Night Out'

The goal is to build safer communities by getting to know your neighbors, surroundings, and the officers in your area

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Police Departments and communities all over Hampton Roads came together today for the annual ‘National Night Out.’

The goal is to build safer communities by getting to know your neighbors, surroundings, and the officers in your area.

In Newport News, Police Chief Steve Drew said this is something they look forward to every year.

"I want the community to see us," he said. "Interact with some kids, I think we got some face painting and some glitter back there."

Drew said it is vital that those relationships are strong.

"It’s important that they don’t think ‘Well, you know the police aren’t here’ or ‘They only come by when something bad happens’ or 'They only come by when there’s a 911 call.’ Our first interaction with people should not be when something bad happens."

RELATED: National Night out gets underway one day after 15-year-old boy was killed in Portsmouth

This rings true especially in a year like this one, with violent crime rising across Hampton Roads.

"Just breaking down barriers and opening up communications and really that’s the foundation of community policing," Drew said.

Over in Portsmouth, the annual event comes just a day after a 15-year-old boy was shot and killed.

Interim Police Chief Scott Burke says getting neighbors connected and involved is key to making tragedies like that stop.

"Building back that awareness of what’s going on around your house and your neighborhood, that’s gonna make every community better," said Burke.

Yolanda Stoner came out to Norfolk’s event at the Wellington Oaks Community Center. She said anything that can curb the violence is a step in the right direction.

And that violence is something she knows first-hand.

"My son was shot in 2000. It’s been 21 years."

Stoner said it doesn’t matter where you came from or who you are, you need to care about what’s happening around you.

"We’re all one. So, regardless of what color, what creed, anything, we’re all one."

That’s a sentiment Billy Jo Wills echoes in Newport News.

He said he’s lived in the same neighborhood for the last 74 years and they’ve gotten too comfortable with the violence.

"It’s an everyday occurrence. People begin to live with it, the gunshots, that sound of that."

But, he said if neighborhoods and law enforcement can come together with the common message of “put the guns down,” that can make all the difference.

"Let’s allow the 'neighbor' to get back into 'neighborhood.'"

RELATED: Ammunition shelves bare as U.S. gun sales continue to soar

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