MINNEAPOLIS -- National Night Out was started to give neighbors a chance to meet one another. The idea behind it is that when you know your neighbors, you look out for them.
And when they came up with the concept, they must have had James Kpoto in mind.
"I know everybody in my neighborhood," said Kpoto.
And he does. "Mama here she lives in this house and Wilson, who's on the grill, he lives in that house," says James as he introduces us to literally everyone in the neighborhood.
When James moved into his house on the 23-hundred block of Illion Ave N. in North Minneapolis, he says crime was bad. He started the block club and National Night Out block party in 2001 and is convinced it has helped bring crime down.
"I would go between 75 and 80% it's down," he says.
No one is under the illusion that one block party will change everything, but it's a start.
"I think everyone has a theory on what we need to do in North Minneapolis to decrease our crime, to bring us all together, to break down the barriers. I think we have to start somewhere," says Tonya Jackson with the Jordan Area Community Council, which helps coordinate block clubs in the area.
And it's not just one block party. James' passion and pride in community has spilled over on to the next street. He convinced someone else to take on the role of block leader on the 24-hundred block of James Ave N. They had their first block party in ten years. And city leaders say it is making a difference.
"We've gotten a lot of information from some of the block club leaders and people on the block club that are now comfortable talking to the police and then giving us information to help lead to some arrests," says Jennifer Waisanen, Crime Prevention Specialist with the Minneapolis Police Department.
That is progress that is measurable. And that is just the start that James Kpoto is hoping with catch on.
"If I could encourage all of Minneapolis to do this, go ahead and do it," he says.
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