The party at Upland Park started off with a bang, but not the kind Kimara Snipe hoped for.

The president of Highland South Indian Hill neighborhood association was setting up for a National Night Out party when a car slammed into a light pole across the street. Soon police who had come to mingle with the community were drawn to the crash, and everyone else was getting a live demonstration of law enforcement at work in South Omaha.

Snipe said the crash was a reminder of the area’s need for National Night Out, an annual campaign to bring communities and law enforcement closer. She said the driver had been driving dangerously through the neighborhood for days, but nobody had called the police. The crash did not seriously hurt the driver, but he will face charges, police said.

“Why no one called the police is probably lack of trust, which is why we need to be out here meeting the police,” Snipe said.

The event was one of more than 40 National Night Out parties held in Omaha on Tuesday night, and thousands more held across the country.

At Upland Park, the event was designed to meet the specific needs of the neighborhood, Snipe said. In an effort to address the root causes of crime in South Omaha, she invited organizations focused on education, employment and other areas linked to crime.

“We recognize that crime is really often a byproduct of lack of access to resources, education and employment, so we thought why not bring all of that to the neighborhood?”

At the Omaha Fire Department booth, fire safety educator Sergio Robles pointed across the park to an area where he once lived. He said a lot of progress had been made in the area since then.

“This community is moving in the right direction,” Robles said. “Every time people see us out here, they see that we’re here to help.”

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