Dallas police, firefighters hold 4th of July picnic to connect with the community

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For many, the Fourth of July is about our shared sense of community as Americans.

That spirit has never been more important, especially in neighborhoods challenged by poverty and violence.

It's a problem the Dallas Police Department and Dallas Fire-Rescue tackled head-on this Independence Day.

It was about more than fireworks. DPD knows there's a crime problem, and they say the solution is starting interaction with children while they are young.

"I felt safe," Brodorick Smith said.

Safety is on the mind of parents like Smith, even on a day meant for celebration.

"It's normal pretty much. It happens every day. My brother got killed. It's normal," he said.

The norm he's referring to is gunshots in Dallas.

Sunday, he heard the gunshots that left two teens dead and two others injured in the Roseland community.

That tragedy made Dallas PD and Dallas Fire-Rescue jump into action in a different way

"One of the easiest things for me to do to partner with young men playing basketball is to say, ‘Who here thinks they can beat a girl?'" DPD Maj. Catrina Shead said.

Shead and her brothers in blue took on some kids in basketball, while firefighters played tennis and took part in face painting.

"It means a lot. It lets us know they care. Making sure the kids are safe. They are trying to do something for the Fourth of July. It lets us know that they care," mother Candice Warren added.

Warren's sons gave the officers problems on the court, but it was just basketball problems, not crime.

DPD says the only way to fix the crime problem is by starting young when reaching out to the community.

"We come out, show them we are people too," Shead said. "We play basketball. We laugh and joke, so they can truly understand that we are here to partner with them. There is nothing we wouldn't do to keep them safe."

That's something parents here are thankful for.

"Hopefully, it will make them love the cops better," Smith said.

DPD is hoping those memories will last until they are adults.