Central Texans connect with law enforcement during National Night Out

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CENTRAL TEXAS (KWTX) There's no one way to make communities safer, but thousands of neighborhoods across the state partnered with police Tuesday night for National Night Out, a community-building campaign promoting partnerships between citizens and law enforcement with a goal of creating safer places to live.

National Night Out 2019 in West.

"We got 21 total going on in the City of Belton," said Brian Kinard, a volunteer with the Belton Police Department.

The Lone Star State does it differently than most: all 50 states, except one, celebrate NNO the first Tuesday in August--Texas does NNO the first Tuesday in October.

Communities across Central Texas took part by hosting block parties with food, games, music, safety demonstrations and more.

While NNOs are a lot of fun, the reason they exist is much deeper.

"This interaction is very important because the majority of the public sees us only on one side and that's to enforce the laws of the State of Texas and to protect the community," said Lt. Jeff Freeman with Waco ISD Police. "This gives us another angle to be able to come out and enjoy ourselves and let the community enjoy themselves with us."

A July study out of the Pew Research Center shows 78-percent of adult Americans have confidence in police, however, that means more than a fifth of them don't.

NNO is a nationwide attempt to bridge that gap.

"The only way that people will approach us is to show our human side," said Commander Vrail George with the Waco Police Department. "A simple conversation goes a long way with our community."

Police usually meet people under bad circumstances, but thousands of Central Texans are connecting with their law enforcement officers in a positive way.

"We're not robots, we're not just somebody in a uniform," said Freeman. "We're real people that eat hot dogs, and drink sodas, and play games, and like to have a good time."

The idea of a neighborhood watch volunteer in a suburb of Philadelphia, Penn.

The first NNO was in 1984--36 years later, the event is celebrated by 38-million neighbors in 16-thousand communities across the U.S., according to the organization's website.

"We can't, as a police department, we cannot survive, cannot be successful, without community support," said George.