BILLINGS — Members of the Atonement Lutheran Church organized and held the first National Night Out event Tuesday in Billings at its campus in the Heights.
National Night Out is a nationwide campaign that's been around 38 years and promotes community building in neighborhoods and crime prevention. Organizers also hope to foster police and community relationships.
"Get to know a little bit about each other and hopefully this can be the start and the seedbed for some of those things like neighborhood watch. Maybe this could be the seedbed for your own National Night Out in your own little neighborhood," said Darren Paulson, pastor at Atonement Lutheran Church.
Families could get a first-hand look at a police car and fire truck and put a face to the people who serve the community. They could also enjoy face painting, food and a selection of bouncy houses.
During a question-and-answer session with community members, Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said he had the data to back up that Billings neighbors were looking out for each other. He said for the past few years, the number one call to police is to report suspicious activity, or things that just don't seem right in their neighborhood.
"What allows us to be so successful in keeping other things at bay? It's you, the citizens who are looking out for your neighbors through neighborhood watch, through calling in suspicious calls," St. John said. "Now, sometimes it's nothing, right? And sometimes it turns into something. But you know what that's telling me? You are looking out for your neighbors, we can't be everywhere all the time. So we need you to do that and that's what is demonstrated by those numbers year in and year out."
St. John added that there's always more room for neighborhood watch groups. To learn how to start one in your area, you can contact the Billings Police Department or visit the city of Billings website to learn more.