NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) -- More than two million Americans took part in the first National Night Out: an effort to stop violence in cities across the country by bringing the community closer to their police department. That number has since swelled to more than 37 million, and New Haven is one of those communities participating.
In some areas, a "night out" can sometimes mean coming upon another crime scene, staring at a police force search for another suspect after another act of violence.
""I'm behaving, I'm behaving," Juan Gutierrez said with a laugh.
Gutierrez's face showed he was worrying about none of that Tuesday night. Instead, the night was a celebration of community; joy in the blanket of goodwill that can be found in the simplest of places: an asphalt parking lot.
"That's the main purpose, keep the community together," said Gutierrez, "especially the young kids, young boys, young girls, keep them in this type of atmosphere, it's better for them."
National Night Out is a 29-year-old country-wide program designed to bring people together to heighten crime prevention awareness by building anti-crime programs, all while enjoying the pleasure of a neighbor's company. The kind of night Gutierrez used to see more off when he was a kid.
"It has changed quite a bit, we want to be part of this, so we can help this younger generation grow up and advise them there is a better life for them," said Gutierrez.
Childhood innocence changes as quickly as the seasons. Kids can go down a dark road, although many at the New Haven event feel even a simple cookout can reinforce family values.
"It brings everyone together for a common goal and purpose," said Marianna Figueroa. "Get together so we know our neighborhood."
Cynics may say one National Night Out won't stop another crime scene, yet perhaps reaching just one person on the simplest joys of what community means, lessens the number of times these people are needed.
"This is the best life. The best," said Gutierrez. "And I invite people to enjoy it."
More than 15,000 communities were expected to take part in National Night Out Tuesday. Other Connecticut cities and towns include Wethersfield, Rockville, and Groton.
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