There were more than 60 neighborhood parties, cookouts, and gatherings all over Wichita Tuesday night. All of them were aimed at bringing neighbors closer together and crime down.
Organizers at one party in north Wichita say in just a few years, the event has helped make a huge dent in the crime in the community.
The party was at St. Patrick’s church on Arkansas Avenue and it was hosted by Safe Streets Wichita.
The group says a few years ago, the Wichita police department asked them to get involved in the nearby neighborhood to help battle the crime in the area like gang activity, graffiti, and drugs.
When Safe Streets Wichita first started holding community events in the north Wichita neighborhood, they say the turnout was pretty small.
"At first there was some apprehension, but after we gained the trust of about 20 parish leaders it just cascaded from there,” Randy Wells with Safe Streets Wichita said.
Fast forward four years, and several community events later and Wells says they've made a lot of progress. The proof is in the numbers.
"Graffiti was a huge problem here about 70 percent of all the graffiti in the city was focused around this neighborhood. It was a $300,000 problem a year. Now it's about $20,000 to $25,000 last year,” Wells said.
The people who live in the neighborhood have noticed the positive change too.
“When I first moved here I think there was some gang involvement and I think things like this have made the community more aware and made those elements more aware that the police are around and that people in the neighborhood do care,” nearby neighbor Aaron Jones said.
Police say community events have definitely helped with the drop in crime. First, because neighbors know and trust each other more. Also, at casual gatherings they can get to know police officers on a personal level.
“When we do have an event, even a burglary that might occur in a neighborhood and we knock on their door they're scared of us. They don't want to talk to us. So building rapport in these types of events greatly helps us solve crime in the future,” Wichita police officer Steve Jerrell said.
The group who planned the party says more than 200 people showed up.
Wichita holds a community wide crime prevention event every year. Usually it's in August but this year they moved it to October to try to raise attendance.