Local crime prevention effort is working

And the community was recognized for it as the National Night Out at Jefferson Park was given a national award for the fifth straight year.

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Fighting crime isn't always about busting down doors and taking the bad guys away in handcuffs.

In fact, most of the crime fighting that's being done is proactive -- stopping crime before it happens so there won't be victims and nobody has to go to jail in cuffs.

Walla Walla is a fine example of that as the Walla Walla Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies work with citizens to take action that prevents crimes.

Recently one of the efforts of the Walla Walla Area Crime Watch garnered another national award. For the fifth year in a row the National Night Out at Jefferson Park was recognized as an award winner by the National Association of Town Watch. The August event was the sixth time the crime, drug and violence prevention program took place at Jefferson Park.

What's happened in the Jefferson Park neighborhood is impressive regardless of the awards. In 2005 residents got together to take back their neighborhood and its park from the criminals, gangs and drug users who were in control.

On Dec. 1 of that year an event took place in Jefferson Park as the West Maple Street Neighbors lit up a 30-foot Christmas tree to send the message that they were fighting crime and taking their neighborhood back. The tree with more than 1,000 lights sent the message that a part of Walla Walla was being reclaimed by the people who lived there. The project was a Commitment 2 Community project facilitated by the Blue Mountain Action Council in collaboration with 30 community entities.

WWPD Crime Prevention Coordinator Vicki Ruley said the local National Night Out event was first held at the park as a celebration of neighbors working together to take back their park. New playground equipment was installed to help create a family friendly atmosphere that would discourages the criminal element from frequenting the park.

More than 1,700 people attended this year's National Night Out event, Ruley said in a news release. Ten local emergency services agencies participated at the event, where 1,315 hot dogs and 930 root beers floats were served.

More importantly, Ruley said, the National Night Out was a chance for children to see police and other public safety officials in a positive light and as people who can be trusted, not feared.

The crime prevention efforts in this community are important. It's nice to be recognized nationally, but the bigger payoff is the crimes that did not occur.

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