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Amid rise in gun violence, Rock Island celebrates National Night Out

The annual event is centered around building relationships between police and the communities they serve to help reduce crime.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — Across the country and across the Quad City area, law enforcement and community members spent Tuesday night celebrating at block parties.

Locally, the non-profit organization Community Caring Conference sponsored a National Night Out event alongside the Rock Island Police Department. Dozens of Rock Island neighbors gathered at Longview Park on Aug. 2 for a BBQ, dance show and a chance to dunk community leaders in the dunk tank.

"It's a wonderful opportunity that we have to just interact with the community, in basically a non-threatening environment to get together and just have some food," said Chief Deputy Tim McCloud. "It's just a fun time."

National Night Out is a nearly four-decade-long tradition celebrated across the country to build neighborhood camaraderie and promote police-community partnerships.

The event was complete with a visit from the Rock Island Library, the fire department, a K9 demonstration, a backpack giveaway and a performance by the dancers at Dynamic Status Gems.

"It's to let the community know that we recognize them and let the city know that we recognize them as well," said CCC member Ashley Harris. "Recognition on both sides is just a good way for us all to come together. This is a great alternative other than wasting energy on gun violence and other nuisances like that."

Rock Island has seen an uptick in gun violence this summer. The police department held a press conference on Tuesday, July 26 to address the recent shootings. At the time, the department had reported ten shootings this summer. Since then, there have been four more shootings, two on Saturday, July 30, and another two on Monday, Aug. 1. There have been six fatal shootings in Rock Island this year.

The overall number of shots fired-related calls has also increased. As of Thursday, July 28, police had reported 63 shots-fired calls so far this year. From January to July 2021, the department reported 46 calls, and only 25 calls for the same time frame in 2020.

McCloud said having events like National Night Out help build the community relationships the police departments need to help solve crimes.

"We need to have that participation in that partnership, without it, we can't solve the crimes that we need to solve," McCloud said. "We can't do it by ourselves. So events like this, that build those relationships are just absolutely key."

Like many other police departments, Rock Island is facing a shortage of officers.

"That of course affects our ability to perform services for the public. We are on our way," McCloud said. "It's gonna take a little bit of time, but we're getting there."

He said the department has four offices finishing up in the Academy and will be opening a new hiring application on Monday.

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