DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham police hosted a National Night Out to help promote police-community partnerships on Tuesday evening.
The event featured food, entertainment and more.
David Myers brought his grandson to the event downtown.
"I wanted to bring my grandson to show him the good police officers do," Myers said. "Not all police officers are bad, most of them are good."
Myers is a retired homicide detective from Washington, D.C.. He moved to Durham in 2001.
"It's important to come down here and be around police officers and see how they treat you," he added.
Ashanta Ward walked over with her children from Edgemont Elms east of downtown
"The kids know that the police are not only here for safety but they're here also as friendly," she said. "It's not only for a tragedy, it's for fun and safety ... to let you know you can always come to officers for help ...and safety."
Paula Carter is the HOA president of Swann's Mill. She said they use Neighborhood Watch, which she said helped bring down crime.
"We've always had a good turnout, our neighbors actually look forward to this get-together so here we are," Carter said. "It's our responsibility as residents to help the police help us."
It's happening at a time when authorities want people to report suspicious activity that can help police keep them safe.
When Durham police released their crime report for the second quarter of 2023, it showed violent crime declined by 7%, but the use of guns and motor vehicle thefts increased.
Shootings are up 20% compared with the same time period last year, while the number of people shot was 25% lower.
Chief Patrice Andrews said the department got lucky that fewer people were injured.
"Gun violence is so prevalent. It's everywhere," Andrews said. "I don't know that I can attribute to any one thing, I just know that it feels like and some of our data shows that we are seeing it most commonly in our babies, in our kids."
The chief also said she's concerned about motor vehicle thefts.
Those rose by 153%, compared to 2022. She mentioned a case where a young suspected car thief shot at an off-duty DPD officer.
"It's disheartening that our kids are engaged in this kind of behavior. You know, and certainly, I can't imagine an off-duty officer. They're fortunate that that officer didn't have their gun on them. I mean, you know, because they're playing adult games and that's just not something that you want to do," Andrews said.
Andrews added that these kinds of events are crucial to promoting a positive interaction between police and the community. It helps the public see the officers behind the badge; see the officers in a different light.
"There has to be a continuous amount of work being done," she said. "I think what you'll see is just by having these positive interactions, we start the conversations and discussion, especially with our kids. I see little ones walking around ... maybe who wouldn't have encountered us otherwise other than on an incident, so it's important."
The National Night Out event is also helpful with recruiting; DPD is down more than 130 officers (not including the academy class).
"I'm not happy about the fact that the staffing is where it is," Andrews said. "We're slow to get folks in the door and then to keep them is a whole separate issue, but I hope that maybe someone out here who has thought about a career in law enforcement, maybe they'll go over there and sign up."