CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Families across the Carolinas will use their porch lights to send a powerful message as part of National Night Out Tuesday. 

The annual event allows community members and local police departments to unite and fight crime. National Night Out started over 40 years ago when neighbors, frustrated with crime, turned on their porch lights and sat on their porches to let criminals know they weren't welcome.

Now, the event has grown to include many communities around the Charlotte area, including Davidson, Huntersville and Salisbury. 

“It’s a way for us to come together, talk with everyone in the neighborhood, and tell criminals that we’re going to fight them back against crime,” said Johnathan Frisk, crime prevention officer for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

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Frisk said he formerly patrolled the Grier Heights neighborhood, which hosted an event of its own. Residents in that area still come up to him and know him by name.

Those relationships, Frisk said, are important when it comes to combating crime in an area.

“If you don’t have a relationship with people in the neighborhood, and they don’t know you by first and last name, they don’t know your car number, if they don’t have your telephone number,” Frisk said, “there is no relationship.”

National Night Out events in the Charlotte area:

“It helps to build that rapport," said Officer Tim Aycock with the Matthews Police Department. "Obviously, we want people to trust us but we truly want to have a relationship with them where if we need information or they need help from us, it’s easier because we already have that firsts line of communication established."

Police also want neighbors to get to know each other to build a stronger sense of community. 

They say the idea is the more people who are looking out for their neighbors, the less crimes will happen. 

Aaya Ross says he's made changes to protect himself and his family, especially after a violent break-in and attempted sexual assault on his dad's street, Briarhill Drive. He's hopeful events like these will start a positive change.

“Just for it to be something where they're trying to do something positive, I think it's a good start, a step in the right direction,” he said.