Arlington program brings community ‘all in’ to reduce crime

Arlington police have a program that involves the community in crime-fighting. (City of Arlington)

ARLINGTON — Two years ago, the Arlington Police Department launched a campaign to get people more involved in crime-fighting.

The “All In” campaign has continued to morph and grow, and that’s not going to stop anytime soon, Police Chief Jon Ventura said. All In combines policing, City Council actions, Neighborhood Watch and social media.

Yes, window stickers and Facebook are involved, but so is serious thinking about the future of public safety in small towns. Arlington has not been immune to the challenges of heroin addiction and homelessness.

All In was started in June 2014 to combat property crimes: burglaries, car prowls, shoplifting. An early step was assigning officers as contacts for neighborhoods with crime problems, Ventura said.

Another component has been working more closely with the Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce. Businesses see more theft, vandalism and aggressive panhandling than neighborhoods, Ventura said. As part of those conversations, the Smokey Point Safeway added lighting and fencing. The shopping complex hired private security.

“It’s made a difference and made people feel like they could come back and shop there,” Ventura said.

Those efforts were tied into the Smokey Point volunteer cleanup party in May and the Keep the Change campaign, which encourages people to give to the homeless in ways that don’t support panhandling, such as donating to local nonprofits.

The next phase of Keep The Change, starting now, is called “Give them a hand up, not a handout.” Businesses are distributing fliers to that effect, Ventura said. The message encourages giving in ways that can truly help people, not just feed addictions, he said.

Arlington is part of a national movement among law enforcement in recognizing that arrests can’t solve all societal ills. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and the Everett Police Department have taken steps to try to address addiction in non-traditional ways, including hiring social workers. Arlington police also have long seen the need to make it easier for officers to get people into low-barrier housing and treatment versus taking them to jail over and over, Ventura said.

He expects to see more federal, regional and local resources being directed toward those efforts in the coming years.

“As police officers, it’s been put at our feet,” he said. “What are we going to do if we can’t put them in jail? Where do we go?”

Not every change is so complicated. All In has spurred a growth in Neighborhood Watch, with a record nine groups already signed up to have block parties on National Night Out in August, Ventura said. Three or four more neighborhoods have shown interest.

“Going back five years ago, that was unheard of,” he said. “That directly resulted from the outreach to businesses and neighborhood groups through the All In campaign. It really shows that we’ve made those connections and improved those relationships.”

It’s not too late to sign up. Organizing an event for National Night Out is a good way to get a Block Watch group started, he said.

The city’s police officers also have been attending meetings of homeowners associations and other community organizations. The department tries to make it to every invitation, so keep them coming, the chief said.

As for Facebook, the Arlington Crime Prevention League page now has more than 1,540 followers. Volunteer participation has increased, but more volunteers always are needed, Ventura said. The same goes for the Arlington Community Resource Center. And don’t forget Pooch Patrol — a program just for dog owners.

Meanwhile, thousands of All In stickers have been distributed, said Bruce Stedman, the fire chief who until recently also was overseeing the police department.

“They’re on vehicles. They’re on houses. They’re on businesses,” Stedman said. “Really the purpose of the sticker is to tell the criminals, ‘Hey, we are committed. We have committed to watching you, and we have committed to call 911.’”

The police department remains budgeted for 25 officers, still behind pre-recession staffing, Ventura said. All In is about giving people advice on how to help keep themselves and their neighbors safer, while also showing them how law enforcement is working toward the same goal.

“It’s going to keep growing, and it’s going to keep evolving,” Ventura said. “We’re going to keep trying new things.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

More info: To get involved with All In, National Night Out, Neighborhood Watch and other crime prevention programs in Arlington, contact 360-403-3400 or police@arlingtonwa.gov.

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