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The Importance of National Night Out

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - People on the Southeast side of Cedar Rapids say they're fed up after more gunshots rang through their neighborhood Tuesday afternoon.

Just a few hours later, police officers were taking part in National Night Out, giving them a chance to interact with the very people they protect.

2014 has been a tough year in Cedar Rapids. There's been a huge increase in violence with more homicides and more gunfire than in most previous years.

That means officers say this is maybe the best time to be out in the community.

Reports of gunfire one hour, kids on inflatable slides the next.

"It's fun, and getting the energy out," said Allison, who had just arrived to the event on the Northwest side.

It's the irony felt in Cedar Rapids, blinking lights and evidence gathering giving way to pictures and barbecues with local officers.

"The relationships we develop through national night out and other events such as this is a positive way to get to know the people here," said Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman.

"It's even more important this year, said Leitenent Cory McGarvey. "We've had a lot of shootings and some homicides, more than an average year. It's absolutely critical."

Tuesday night's shots fired incident is Cedar Rapids' 65th just this year. In all of 2013, the city only had 56. In 2012, 64.

National Night Out it might look like just hotdogs and hamburgers, but there's a deeper lesson for local kids.

John Berge -
"I think it's very much more important I think the opportunity is for kids to know there are people they can go to, places they can go," said John Berge.

Robin Kash says he remembers having a beat cop, someone he could go to with any kind of problem. Cedar Rapids does have officers who patrol the same neighborhoods for extended periods of time, having a similar effect.

Helping that process along is spending time with officers over dinner,and not next to the flashing lights.

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