Kent crime-prevention program gains national recognition

NgocDzung Smith and her husband

NgocDzung Smith and her husband

National Night Out continues to be a hit with Kent residents and city employees.

Kent ranked third nationally in 2008 for its participation Aug. 5 in the 25th annual National Night Out to combat crime.

City officials learned that Kent rated third in the nation among the 294 cities that participated with a population of 50,000 to 99,999. Kent has about 86,000 residents.

“We’re excited,” said Sara Wood, a Kent Police public education specialist and coordinator of National Night Out, in a phone interview Thursday. “We’ve been doing this 25 years and this is the highest ranking we’ve ever had.”

Kent continues to climb the rankings. The city ranked fifth in 2007, the first time the city cracked the top five. Kent has ranked in the top 10 eight consecutive years.

Cities are ranked on their overall campaign, neighborhood participants, law enforcement involvement and other categories to determine the national rankings out of hundreds of entries.

An estimated 8,500 Kent residents participated in National Night Out events. That’s 10 percent of the city’s population.

“We were able to grow our participation and that’s a big factor in the ranking,” Wood said.

More than 100 city employees from police, fire and other departments visited 75 neighborhood events to help thank residents for working with the city to prevent crime.

The Kent Target store sponsored the local National Night Out and had 20 store employees participate in the event.

National Night Out is a nationwide campaign focused to help neighbors get to know each other better and to be aware of potential criminal activity.

Neighbors threw potlucks, barbecues, ice cream socials and other events to draw residents together the evening of Aug. 5.

The annual gatherings often kick-start neighborhood watch programs.

“Neighborhood crime prevention is the goal of National Night Out and the Neighborhood Watch programs,” said Police Chief Steve Strachan. “This National Night Out award was through the combined efforts of the city staff, Target employees and many citizens. They are the real recipients of this award.”

The two cities rated ahead of Kent were Suffolk, Va., and Richardson, Texas. Both cities also were rated higher than Kent in 2007. Forty-eight cities were ranked in the 50,000 to 99,999 population category.

Kent set its own record as 75 neighborhoods participated in the program last August, compared to 70 in 2007 and 58 in 2006. Nearly 4,400 people were involved in neighborhood gatherings in 2007 and 3,700 in 2006.

National Night Out will be on Aug. 4 in 2009.

“Our goal next year is to just keep moving up,” Wood said of the national rankings.

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