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West Valley City Journal

August Signals Community Blend Between Neighbors, Police

Aug 30, 2016 03:33PM ● By Travis Barton

West Valley City held multiple events throughout August promoting safety and crime prevention. –Travis Barton

National Night Out may be a month-long, nationwide event, but its focus is on neighborhoods.
West Valley City commemorated August as National Night Out Month starting with Neighborhood Block Parties on Aug. 2 and culminating with the Wrap-up Celebration on Aug. 31 at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center—all in an effort to promote safety and camaraderie in the community.
“It’s very important for people to come out and experience that,” Craig Thomas, director of Neighborhood Service, said.
West Valley City had about 40 block parties registered this year with city officials, police officers and firefighters making appearances at as many as they could. Thomas said when the number of parties increased they had to expand on the month’s events.
“When they became so prolific—one year we had 40 events trying to take place on one night with limited resources—so we started to do a second emphasis night,” Thomas said.
That second night was Aug. 25. The 40 block parties this year is down from 58 a year ago, their biggest year.
Thomas said at least 20 percent of the city gets invited to a block party and he estimates about 10,000 people attend the various events held.
Since block parties don’t reach everybody in the city, other events are held throughout the month to extend awareness including three safety and health fairs, CPR training and an interactive discussion with Police Chief Lee Russo.
“We keep adding more opportunities for residents to participate…It’s pretty far reaching, we obviously want to keep bumping that up,” Thomas said.
Thomas said the message of National Night Out is to increase awareness of the crime prevention programs the city and county offer along with safety programs such as the Utah Safety Council.
Rachel Hiatt is a Home and Community Program Manager with the Utah Safety Council. She brought a booth to the events the city put on to help spread information about car seat and home safety topics.
“Sometimes safety takes a back seat and it’s good to have reminders…like gun safety or home safety or car seat safety so it’s good to make everybody aware,” Hiatt said.
The month also arrives at an appropriate time in the world as it serves an opportunity to foster community relations with the police department.
“That is our main goal to strengthen those relationships,” Thomas said. “Kids need to know that those men and women in blue, those are their safety persons, who they can go to when they see something.”
Sergeant Trudy Cropper said it’s great at those events for kids and adults to get to know them in a friendly environment.
 “Gives kids a chance to have a positive interaction with us because some of them may only have an interaction if we show up at their house because of a problem,” Cropper said. “We’re real people and what we want is for people to be safe and taken care of.”
Hiatt said she loved seeing the kids interacting with the police officers at the annual Police Department Safety Fair.
“It’s good to get that relationship and let the community know that they’re not so intimidating. They’re not the bad guys, they’re the good guys,” Hiatt said.
Cropper, part of the community response unit, said the month is great at not only promoting crime prevention but it gives them an opportunity to be proactive.
“We’re so reactive most of the time—we get calls, we respond to those calls—that we don’t get a lot of chances to put out information so it’s really important,” Cropper said. 
Knowledge is power and Cropper said knowing as much as you can will help people take the proper safety measures.
“There’s a lot you can do to protect yourself and take all the precautions you can so you don’t become a victim,” Cropper said.
The most important thing with crime prevention, Thomas said, is neighbors knowing each other whether it’s through a neighborhood organization or not.
“It’s neighbors knowing neighbors, reaching out to help one another,” Thomas said. “That’s our perfect scenario is families and the kids getting to that place where they know each other, talk and can trust each other and go to each other when they need help.”
Focusing on the neighborhood inevitably brings camaraderie to the forefront and then hopefully, safety.
“Get involved with your neighborhood watch so you know your neighbors and watch out for each other,” Cropper advised.