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All-In Campaign engages public in crime prevention

 


When Arlington’s public safety director Bruce Stedman stepped into his position in June 2014 he started his All-In Campaign to get the whole community involved in stopping crime.

From 2013 to 2015 the city of Arlington has seen a 40 percent reduction in burglary, a 46 percent reduction in robbery and a 26 percent reduction in vehicle theft, and city officials think that public participation is one of the big reasons for that.

“The All-In Campaign was basically a five-pronged approach to get everyone involved,” said Jonathan Ventura, the deputy chief of police for the Arlington Police Department.

“We started going to neighborhood meetings and business group meetings, meeting with the retailers,” he said.

Downtown Arlington Business Association president Mike Britt said the campaign was how the public could help themselves. “It’s not just about what the city can provide to us, but how we can take back our community,” he said.

The campaign was built around getting support from the public, from the city and from business leaders in the community.

The Arlington Police Department wanted to tell the public to not be afraid of reporting suspicious activity, even if it turns into nothing.

“As we were talking to the citizens and the businesses, there was this big fear to call 911, and right now in the county we don’t really have a main non-emergency number,” said Ventura.

Those types of non-emergency calls have increased since 2014.

“Our officers would go and respond and they found people doing drugs, or people doing car prowls or with warrants and they found people who had legitimate reasons to be there,” he said.

The amount of additional calls can be seen in other ways too.

“We had a huge spike in our bills from SNOPAC [the Snohomish County emergency dispatch center] because of the calls, and I mean, that’s not a bad thing, we knew that this could come when we went to the citizens and the businesses,” said Kristin Banfield, director of human resources and communications at the city of Arlington.

But the public helped in other ways, like the Pooch Patrol program, where citizens are encouraged to stay vigilant during their dog walks, or the still-camera installed at Haller Park.

“We have some people that sit at home and just watch that camera. We had people doing some reckless driving, donuts in the park, and we went and caught them because some people called that in,” said Ventura.

The city’s police department was even able to reinstate a K-9 program because of direct community support, and now two dogs are completely supported by public donations.

The business and city were the other two arms of the outreach.

Businesses were also brought into the program and encouraged to take advantage of trespass laws if they need to, and because of that arrests for trespassing “increased exponentially” said Ventura.

City officials worked to pass ordinances faster than ever.

“That used to take upward of a year if you wanted to change something, and we were able to speed that up to about 30 days,” said Ventura.

Anti-camping and aggressive panhandling ordinances were some ordinances passed by the council.

“We also did some regulation with the codes dealing with some of our foreclosed homes to help accelerate that because we were having a lot of squatting activity in the vacant homes,” said Banfield. The new ordinance added “teeth” to the law, she said.

Britt said that a lot of areas of the city have improved since 2014.

“We have an artery for recreation that runs right through our town [the Centennial Trail] and I would talk with one of my friends who’s a police officer and he didn’t want to take his family down the trail just because of the ominous people there,” he said, “But that’s no longer true today.”

“If you’re looking for it [crime], you can find it, but it’s not something that’s in-your-face now, where if you go to one of our parks and see guys there and decide you don’t want to go that park,” he said.

Ventura said the city hopes to continue improving.

“If you think you’ve reached the finish line you probably need to re-evaluate,” he said. He hopes to hold additional community meetings this year and get more ground-level officers involved.

 

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