UNION — Instead of sponsoring a National Night Out event in the City of Union the Union Public Safety Department is focusing its personnel and resources on responding to community concerns about crime throughout the year.
National Night Out is a community/police awareness raising event designed to increase public awareness of police anti-crime programs such as drug prevention and neighborhood watch. In many communities, the event involves organized activities that include such things as live music, food, and entertainment. The idea is to let criminals know that the community is organized and fighting back against their activities.
The first National Night Out took place on Aug. 7, 1984 and since then the event has been held the first Tuesday in August with the latest National Night Out taking place this evening in communities across the country.
One community where it will not be held is the City of Union where the Union Public Safety Department has opted for a year round program of increased law enforcement presence in areas of the city based on information provided by residents of those areas.
“We don’t do that anymore,” Union Public Safety Director Sam White said Monday. “We found it turned into a big party. There’s nothing wrong with that, but our focus is on fighting crime.”
Instead of sponsoring a local National Night Out, White said that last year the department opted for a community outreach program through which officers met with residents of the Union Mill Village area to hear their concerns about crime. White said that at the meeting those residents who attended voiced concerns about criminal activity in their area. He said the department then acted on those concerns with an increased presence in the area that not only confirmed the concerns voiced by residents, but also did something about them.
“Last year we were involved with a grant for the Union Mill Village area,” White said. “As part of that we had a meeting with the residents in the area. We had only a few show up , but the ones that did attend gave us information about their concerns about crimes being committee in that area.
“We went back and gave our patrol people assignments to go over there at certain times and certain days,” he said. “Immediately we saw the concerns the citizens gave us were true,” he said. “We started some enforcement programs over there. After a month, things seemed to quiet down.”
The reduction in crime has continued with the public safety department making what White said are “spot checks” in the area to make sure things stay quiet.
“We kind of eased off and go back occasionally and do spot check to make sure everything stays that way,” White said. “This is probably the quietest summer we’ve had over there and we hope we’re improving the quality of life for the residents over there.”
The increased police presence in areas like the Union Mill Village is only one part of a larger effort by the public safety department to engage the public in not only fighting but preventing crime.
White said the effort includes Public Safety Day where the department pools its efforts with other organizations to reach out to the children of the community and their parents. He said this helps build public awareness of the efforts of law enforcement and those other agencies to serve the community while also having a positive influence on the children in attendance.
Public safety officers and administrative personnel also go each day to the schools in Union, their presence designed to supplement the efforts of the School Resource Officers in those that have them. In those schools that don’t have an SRO, White said the officers and the administrative personnel provide that law enforcement presence that helps the schools stay safe. In addition to keeping the schools safe, the officers and administrative personnel, both in cooperation with SROs and/or on their own work to build strong relationship between the department and the school district and the students.
White said it is the department’s view that these efforts, which take place throughout the year, have a most positive impact on the community, both in terms of crime prevention and in cracking down on crime when it occurs.
“We get a lot of good feedback and not a lot of complaints, we’ve not eliminated the problems, but we’ve made things better,” White said. “We feel that doing this throughout the year is more effective than just one night.”