CHICAGO (CBS) — National Night Out kicks off today. It’s an event that brings plenty of police officers into the communities they serve.

CBS 2’s Mugo Odigwe spoke with one suburban police chief about how the event helps officers thrive.

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National Night Out events didn’t happen last year because of the pandemic. On Tuesday, many communities in Illinois and throughout the country will participate.

That includes the City of Aurora, which has 22 National Night Out events.

“This event is near and dear to my heart. It’s one of the few times I get to come out of my office and go out on the street and hang out with the people in the city,” Aurora Police Chief-elect Keith Cross said.

Cross is days away from officially taking over as police chief in Aurora.

He said National Night Out is about neighbors getting to know neighbors; and getting to know a different side of police officers.

“In Aurora, we have two simple goals: one is to reduce crime, and the other one is to engage our community, and I think those two things go hand in hand,” Cross said.

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The event is about building stronger relationships between police and the communities they serve.

It comes after many cities saw marches and protests against police brutality last summer, following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

“It’s one of the reasons why I try to recruit, you know, people of color into the profession; because I want them to know what I know, you know, and I want them to come out and treat the community with respect and build those relationships,” Cross said.

In Aurora tonight, there’ll be activities across the city’s 10 wards. That includes free food, games, and music.

They’re also offering COVID-19 vaccinations at certain events.

Cross is urging folks to show up.

“This is one of the few opportunities that you have to get out and hang out with your neighbors,” he said. “Get to know people in your neighborhood, and also get to meet the police officers that patrol your neighborhood. Come on out, meet us.”

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Aurora’s Night Out event will run from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. They’re just one of many departments holding a Night Out event. In fact, numerous departments in our area will have a night out event today.