A group of neighbors who volunteer with the Hampden County Sheriff's Department to keep Springfield and Holyoke safe met for an appreciation dinner Monday night.
They're a part of a neighborhood watch group, lowering crime rates and drug use in the area.
It was a night to celebrate neighbors helping neighbors.
A packed crowd of neighbors and law enforcement officers who are all working together to crack down on violence and crime in their communities attended the dinner at the Western Massachusetts Correctional Alcohol Center.
"It's a way to thank the community members and show them that we're appreciative of the work that they're doing," said Eddie Caisse, who runs the neighborhood watch program.
Nearly 1,000 people have been using their eyes and ears since 2007 to report suspicious activity to the police. They're also working as a team to build up their neighborhoods.
"You can just see a different sense in the neighborhood because a lot of people in the neighborhood are coming together to really try to build community," said Robert Rivera, who volunteers with the neighborhood watch program.
Rivera volunteers through the South Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative and participates in the family activities put on through the sheriff's department.
"Not a lot of people get to go have fun so they make it fun for us, for the kids and we feel good doing it," Rivera said.
Those like Rivera who volunteer know how to report crime anonymously.
"A part of it is actually training the community members on observational skills, things to look for in the neighborhood and ways to report information," Caisse said.
Since training began, rough neighborhoods like South Holyoke have transformed.
"This is the future for addressing crime. Understanding communities and having people in that community invested enough to help themselves, to work with law enforcement, to work with the district attorney's office, to work with the sheriff's office and come together with these new efforts to make things better," Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni said.
The dinner helped celebrate residents working in 15 different neighborhoods to create a safer community.
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