Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres has reversed a decision to cancel National Night Out – an event that assists to build strong ties between neighbors and police – and allow the annual happening to take place without the city contributing funds, said municipal officials on Monday morning.
Police and public works employees will assist in allowing 40 separate events throughout the city to take place on Tuesday afternoon into the evening, said officials.
“It’s a great decision,” said council president William McKoy. He said the paltry expense incurred by the city far outweighs the benefits it receives from the event.
Officials said the city will not make other contributions as it has done in previous years. Organizers of the events said the city typically provides hot dogs and buns for their events; however, that expense amounts to $3,000 or so and is covered by the Police Benevolent Association (PBA).
It’s not clear how much the city actually spends on the event.
“It’s not a significant expense. It’s a small cost for a very significant benefit when you have neighbors and community interacting with our police department,” said McKoy. Residents in some of the city’s tougher neighborhoods are more likely to cooperate with police officers and report criminal activity when they are familiar with officers who serve their community.
The news of the National Night Out event being cancelled galvanized a lot of community members to solicit donations or volunteer service from their neighbors and neighborhood businesses.
“I think it’s a blessing in disguise. It makes the neighbors take more ownership and not be so dependent on the city. It makes us want to go out and meet our neighbors and everybody chip in,” said Nancy Grier, the city’s Neighborhood Assistance Office coordinator.
The Grier family organizes a block event at the Francena (Josey) Grier Way also known as Hamilton Avenue to bring out the neighbors to build a stronger community in the Wrigley Park section. She said the corner stores and others have pitched in to allow the events to take place.
Torres had cancelled the event two weeks ago catching council members by surprise. Many of the organizers of the various events did not learn about the cancellation until several days later.