Officers host community cookout to start summer, engage with community

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - It is time to put the backpacks away and taste hot dogs and conversation.

Kids and adults attended a community cookout Friday at Muessel Grove Park to celebrate the end of the school year.

The cookout was hosted by the South Bend Police Department and Michiana Crime Stoppers.

“We are trying to engage the community, and the only way we are going to stop violence in our community is through relationships and building that trust between the police department and the community,” said Ken Garcia, spokesperson for the South Bend Police Department.

To prepare for the cookout, authorities passed out flyers, inviting residents to stop by. At the event, officers especially interacted with kids, like 10-year-old Dezire Love.

“He told me kids shouldn't be afraid of officers, as long as they are on the right track and not in the streets,” Dezire said.

Dezire stated she thinks events like this help kids, giving them a brighter future.

“When you can engage with the children, that's a good thing…Change their perception about police. A lot of times, children have this concept of ‘never talk to the police,’ or if you ever see the police, it means something bad has happened. That's not necessarily the case,” Garcia said.

Officers said they also hope residents feel more comfortable reporting crimes.

“If, unfortunately, something were to happen, whether it be a shooting or a robbery or burglary or something along those lines, they know enough where they can come over and say, 'I have information for you,'” Garcia added.

Members with the police department said they also plan to pass out pizzas this summer as another opportunity to connect with the community.