by: Greg Suskin Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Neighbors and local police connected across the country and in one Charlotte community, as National Night Out has grown, fears of violent crime have lessened.
A crowd filed into Tom Hunter Park in the Hidden Valley neighborhood Tuesday night.
Cameron Jackson, 16, said his neighborhood gets a bad reputation.
“Growing up here since I was a little kid, it's really not that bad as people say it is," he said.
He's helping show the rest of Charlotte that it is an improving neighborhood -- a place where kids can play basketball and neighbors can meet neighbors without any problems.
Some said part of that feeling of safety is linked to a court order last summer that gave police the ability to arrest members of the Hidden Valley Kings gang if they carried guns, met with other members or recruited any new ones.
National Night Out Chairwoman Saundra Jackson said she doesn't hear as much about gangs anymore and thinks that step helped quiet the streets here.
"I’m thinking and hoping that it has made a difference and that we do feel a lot better and safer," Jackson said.
Police said violent crime is down more than 20 percent in the Hidden Valley community.
Helen Mungo, who put together the first National Night Out there 11 years ago knows something is different.
"It's much quieter,” Mungo said. “You don't hear gunshots like you did at one time and the police are really working so close with the community."
An organizer said National Night Out has one goal -- every person who shows up at this park meets someone they didn't know before.