Columbus neighborhoods come together for National Night Out

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More than 150 Columbus neighborhoods gathered Tuesday evening to celebration National Night Out.

The nationwide event is designed to increase awareness about police programs in communities, but in the Hilltop community on the west side of Columbus, National Night Out was a rare opportunity for children to mingle with the city’s chief of police.

Neighborhood leaders said the children are the reason they’re fighting for change.

"The children are watching everyone,” Lisa Boggs said. “They're watching the prostitutes go down the street. They're watching the drug dealers. We just want them out of here.”

Boggs said her neighborhood is proof neighbors and law enforcement can work together to make a difference.

Police said a vice sting operation in July in the Hilltop resulted in dozens of arrests for soliciting.

"We work closely with our Columbus Police Department to take back our neighborhoods,” Boggs said. “We are working very hard to get the crime and the drugs out of the Hilltop area. We work very hard.”

It appears the grassroots movement is gaining momentum. Columbus police officers said for a decade, the National Night Out gathering on Ogden Avenue was the only celebration on the Hilltop. This year that number tripled.

"Having neighborhood pride is contagious,” Columbus City Council President Zach Klein said. "We are a stronger community together.”

Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said National Night Out events are a chance for neighbors and police to talk face to face about the challenges facing their neighborhoods.

Boggs said it’s also an opportunity send a clear message to criminals.

"This is our neighborhood and we are giving crime and drugs a going away party tonight,” Boggs said.