CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ten years ago, Helen Mungo started the first National Night Out event in the Hidden Valley neighborhood -- an area once plagued with crime.
Since then, Mungo, who paid for the first event out of her own pocket, said participation has increased year after year -- a sign the neighborhood is taking positive steps to address crime.
“I called everybody in town to get them to come out,” Mungo said, who attended Hidden Valley’s 10th night out on Tuesday at Tom Hunter Park. “I think this has made a big difference.”
The 30th annual National Night Out, sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, is intended to generate support and participation in local anti-crime programs and strengthen neighborhood relationships and partnerships with police.
More than 600 people attended Hidden Valley’s night out -- enjoying barbecue, a deejay and games as they mingled with law enforcement officers and neighbors.
Charlotte Mayor Patsy Kinsey shook hands with Hidden Valley residents. “It’s important to the community that we get together and get to know each other,” the mayor said. “It’s about neighbors and friends.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Lt. Ken Schull said the event is a great opportunity for people in a community to meet each other and talk about crime. He said the Hidden Valley night out is usually one of the largest in the state. About 75 night out events were held Tuesday in the Charlotte area.
“This community has shown through the years a commitment to improving its reputation and we’re trying everything we can to bring up that reputation,” Schull said.
He said the most common crimes in Hidden Valley are burglaries.
Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray also attended Hidden Valley’s night out. He said the event shows that the neighborhood is an active force against crime. It makes it easier for members of the community to call the police when they see something unusual, he said.
Saundra Jackson, a resident of Hidden Valley for more than 30 years, helped organize the event.
“We’ve been fighting hard against crime,” she said, noting that crime rates in the neighborhood have dropped recently.
Jackson, 63, said she sees children playing outside and people taking walks in the neighborhood, something that didn’t occur as often just a few years ago.
“To me that supports the notion that things are getting better,” she said.