Chicopee residents enjoyed a fun night out with an important message on Monday night during its "National Night Out" event.
"We started it because there were a lot of problems in the neighborhood," founder Jean Fitzgerald said. "There were gangs, there was drugs, there were drive-by shootings and we wanted to stop it."
That was 20 years ago, and on Monday night hundreds of families gathered at the Sarah Jane Sherman Park to continue to fight back against crime in the community and build relationships with police.
"The people get to see us as basically humans, not just a badge and a uniform. They see us as people and it really is good that they open up, they can talk to us, they can come up if they have problems in their neighborhoods. If they have things they want to talk about we're here for them," Chicopee Police Officer Michael Wilk said.
More than 35 million Americans participate in National Night Out events across the country and Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos says coming out to meet neighbors and police helps the community.
"I don't see how it could be anything but effective when you have this type of interaction," he said.
In addition to meeting police, families enjoyed music, bounce houses and free food.
Event chairman John Vieau says they lost funding for the night out last minute, but it was all made possible because of help from the community.
"Unbelievable the way this community comes together," Vieau said. "When there's a time of need you can count on Chicopee people and they've really come together and pulled it off."
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