Residents hosted picnics and parties across the city Tuesday to encourage neighbors to meet each other.
Their goal is to fight crime with fellowship, said organizers.
"When you know your neighbor, you watch each other's back," said Chattanooga police Lt. Davis Stone, Brainerd area commander. "You see somebody messing around, we want people to call us. It might be a visitor, but you might have stopped a burglar."
Stone was among an estimated 37 million people across the United States and Canada participating in the 28th annual National Night Out Against Crime. The event is held to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness and to send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back, according to www.nationalnightout.org.
About 30 neighborhood groups participated locally, as well as some 15,000 neighborhoods across the country and Canada, according to the website.
In Chattanooga, M.L. King residents hosted porch parties, Highland Park held a barbecue, the Bushtown and Churchville neighborhood associations provided food and music for youths and the Orchard Knob Neighborhood Association set up a tent and held a neighborhood association membership drive.
"It's like it used to be, all the neighbors at one location," said Stone, while sitting on the porch with residents in the Menlo neighborhood. "In some places, people don't even know their neighbors."
The Ridgedale Neighborhood Association hosted the local National Night Out kick off.
Community advocate Gary Ball talked about community pride. And resident Theresa Ivey encouraged residents to attend the next Ridgedale neighborhood meeting scheduled for the fourth Thursday in September.
"We do a couple of activities like this about three or four times a year, so please come find out more about it," Ivey said.
Joining a neighborhood association is a step toward neighborhood improvement, said Neighborhood Services Administrator Beverly Johnson.
"You tend to take care of your community when you know the people who live next to you," she said. Then she sat down with residents under a pavilion with bright-colored balloons and ate a hot dog.
Young people at the Villages at Alton Park ate from a watermelon stand, turned flips in an inflatable and played games. The meal included hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken fajitas. And Virginia College gave free manicures.
"We've got it going on," said Rosemary Porter, president of Villages at Alton Park Neighborhood Watch. "People are coming together to do something positive in the neighborhood against crime."