The shooting of 10-year-old Elvira Campos in May brought the community of North Highlands together in search of ways to prevent similar crimes.
Tuesday evening, North Highlands residents gathered again at Freedom Park, meeting with city officials, law enforcement, church members, community groups and neighbors.
It was one of 178 community events held throughout the Sacramento area to celebrate the 30th National Night Out, an event designed to bring neighborhoods together to band against crime and socialize.
The North Highlands event featured speeches from community leaders, a folk guitarist and an inflatable bounce house for children. Hundreds of people mingled on a breezy summer evening.
"Most of the time we're disconnected with the community because they don't want to get involved," said Sgt. Luis Aguilar of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. "I don't blame them, because the threats and the crime are real out there. We have a lot of gang problems."
Communities everywhere celebrated a day of unity; however, the idea is to create a lasting partnership between citizens and public safety professionals that goes beyond just one day.
Leaders cited Campos' death as an example of how the community needed to take action. The 10-year-old girl was shot dead as she sat on her family's couch watching television, an incident that authorities believe was not an accident.
"We have to figure out a way that it won't happen again to another family," said Sacramento County Supervisor Susan Peters. "We were trying to figure out a way to bring people out so we can get them interested in the neighborhood watch program."
Although Ina Robin Williams, 45, considers North Highlands a "tight-knit" area, she said residents and neighborhoods within the community don't really know each other.
"I'm looking forward to changing this area because I live in a complex where there's too many drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless people living on my staircase," Williams said. "I'm hoping that this kind of event will make the community aware of what's going on right outside our doorway."
That's the goal for city officials and law enforcement.
"I'll tell you what, I believe a good portion of the crimes that we solve is because of the community," Aguilar said. "It's the people who are willing to step up and report where these gang members are hanging out and causing problems."
Aguilar, who is part of the sheriff's anti-gang unit, said gangs are nomadic, moving from one neighborhood to another in order to ward off law enforcement.
"I think that's why they spread out," Aguilar said. "We know most of them, and we have a pulse on them."
He said the Sheriff's Department could keep residents anonymous most of the time if they report criminal activity.
"They should never be afraid to report what's going on," Aguilar said. "They need to stand strong and stand up to these guys, because (gangs) depend on their fear in order to control the neighborhoods.
Call The Bee's Kristopher Rivera, (916) 321-1101 Follow him on Twitter @kgrivera.