National Night Out celebrates dropping crime rates as neighbors band together

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MUSKEGON, Mich. – For the past 31 years, the first Tuesday of August has been observed as National Night Out, an evening where neighbors get to know each other and get to know local law enforcement.

Since April, six people have been killed in Muskegon Heights alone. In response, neighbors are banding together, said Shirley Strang, president of the NIMS Neighborhood Association in Muskegon.

"With the neighborhood associations, that's the first place to start," Strang said. "That's your first line of defense: get involved with your neighbors, know your neighbors. From that point on, know your community officer, he's your next line. Anything from there and it's 911. Anything can happen."

Muskegon Mayor Steve Gawron said that between May 2013 and May 2014, violent crime across the city has fallen 38 percent. Gawron said this is due in part to greater collaboration between neighbors and their police department.

"I see better days ahead," said Gawron, but it would take "a concerted effort, not just by governmental forces but with the increased involvement of our neighbors, who are becoming much more collaborative and cooperating when it comes to crime solving."

Between sharing a meal together, face painting, and then meeting the community's officers, Muskegon residents told FOX 17 their neighborhood feels safer.

"This year, we're seeing a lot more people coming to our meetings wanting to get involved,” said Strang. “Everything is starting to look up for the NIMS area."

And it was not just Muskegon County taking part in National Night Out across West Michigan. In Holland’s Kollen Park, neighborhoods celebrated with a pie eating contest.

Light bulbs were also donated at several neighborhood events as part of National Night Out.

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