By Ray Stephanson
On Tuesday night, I invite you to join me at National Night Out Against Crime in Everett. Nearly two dozen events are planned throughout the city, where you’ll have the chance to meet our police officers and firefighters and socialize with your neighbors.
And while these events are fun, they’re more than just barbecues and lawn games. Neighbor-to-neighbor connections create safer neighborhoods and help prevent crime throughout our entire community. Our experience shows that when neighbors know each other, they’re more likely to report suspicious activity and help each other during an emergency.
There has been a lot of discussion recently about public safety and crime rates in our community, and later this month Police Chief Dan Templeman will share an update with the City Council and the public. Our focus is not on how we “rank” related to other cities; comparisons can be misleading, because of demographics, size and because not all police departments respond to all 911 calls, as Everett does.
Instead, our primary goal is to see our crime rate decreasing, which is happening. And while no crime is acceptable, I’m especially pleased that violent crimes like homicides, rapes and assaults are down 17 percent over the previous five-year average.
However, we can do more, and we continue to look for innovative and creative ways to prevent crime and protect our quality of life. Everett is not unique in seeing a rise in property crimes, such as vehicle prowls and thefts in the last few years, and our police force has placed a special emphasis on fighting those crimes. We know from our experience that these offenses are often related to underlying factors such as addiction and mental illness. We are working to address those issues thoughtfully and comprehensively, including through the Community Streets Initiative, and with new programs in our municipal court designed to get offenders into services rather than jail.
You can help. Neighborhood connections and citizen involvement are another critical piece of our crime-prevention efforts. Spend some time at your neighborhood’s event this Tuesday night. Participate in your neighborhood association. Our police officers regularly attend neighborhood meetings to talk about what’s happening in the area and to answer questions.
If your street already has a block watch, consider getting involved. If not, talk to us about starting one. Or take the next step and become a citizen volunteer with the police department. Volunteers help prevent crime by assisting with “vacation watch” home checks, monitoring school crossings and patroling city parks.
Property crimes are typically crimes of least resistance, and there are steps you can take to better protect your property. Contact our crime-prevention team to learn about simple changes that will make your home and vehicle less attractive to potential criminals.
Crime — and the perception of crime — is unsettling, and we are working hard to see progress in every Everett neighborhood, so that all of our residents and visitors feel safe on our streets. We are fortunate to have a well-respected police force that exercises excellent judgment and demonstrates a commitment to our community every day.
Public safety remains the top priority of my administration, and under Chief Templeman’s leadership, we will continue to partner with the community to proactively prevent crime and respond quickly and decisively when it occurs. I encourage you to strengthen our efforts by taking the simple step of getting to know your neighbors. I look forward to seeing you at National Night Out this Tuesday.
Ray Stephanson is the mayor of Everett.