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California City Solutions: Lakewood Reduces Property Crime with Customized See Something, Say Something Campaign

November 12, 2014
This story is part of an ongoing series featuring Helen Putnam Award entries. The 2014 entries are available on the League’s website as a resource for cities in a searchable database called California city Solutions. Lakewood’s See Something, Say Something campaign was submitted in 2014 for the Public Safety award category.
 
Keeping families and their communities safe is a top priority for cities. It is a primary goal for any public safety team to focus on crime prevention and respond to criminal activity using a variety of resources. When the city of Lakewood started seeing a rise in certain crimes they launched their own customized version of a national safety campaign.

The “See Something, Say Something” campaign has developed a heightened sense of awareness in Lakewood’s residents.
 
Lakewood is proud of its safe community. The partnership the city has with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement services, affectionately known as Team Lakewood, is a 60 year old success story. During the past several years, Lakewood has been experiencing a decrease in serious crime, however, since November 2011 property crime, primarily burglary started to rise. There were a reported 417 burglaries in 2013 compared to 377 the previous year.
 
The city suspected that the increase in parolees due to prison realignment was a contributing factor. The realignment law mandates that individuals sentenced to non-serious, non-violent or nonsexual offense be housed in county jails instead of state prison, or released early.
 
While deputies continued using resources such as neighborhood patrols and crime maps to identify targeted areas, property crimes, especially burglary still persisted. Increasing law enforcement resources is costly and unrealistic. City resources already focused on crime prevention strategies, but it was apparent that something further needed to be done.
 
Although Lakewood’s Neighborhood Watch program is one of the California’s most successful, with 400 block captains covering approximately 800 blocks, a need persisted for citywide surveillance. The city decided to implement the national “See Something, Say Something” campaign developed by the nation’s Homeland Security and customize it. Developed in 2013, the campaign encourages residents to be aware of and report to law enforcement activities happening in their area that are suspicious or unusual.
 
The city used multiple marketing resources, using words such as “unusual activity” to notify the residents including:
  • Articles in the city’s quarterly Lakewood Living magazine, mailed to every residence;
  • Weekly e-magazine sent to 18,000 subscribers and crime prevention program newsletters sent to more than 800 participants;
  • The city’s website;
  • 4”x6” information cards available at city parks, community centers and the Sheriff’s Station, as well as distributed personally by sheriff deputies;
  • The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Nixle alerts; and
  • Lakewood’s “Watch Your Back” cable program.
Costs for the campaign proved to be low since full-time employees already responsible for producing publications integrated the work into the existing publications. The city only had an additional cost of $300 for the printed two-sided information cards, which were printed in-house.
 
The city saturated the community with information, assigning them with reporting their observations and educating them on criminal’s tactics. The city wanted data on business solicitors going door-to-door looking for unoccupied homes using a knock-knock technique, individuals posing as a utility worker distracting the resident outside while someone else enters their home, or someone that did not know their way around a neighborhood and hesitated when questioned.
 
Residents, businesses and visitors are encouraged to report activity including:
  • Someone resembling a student, carrying a backpack, while school is in session;
  • A solicitor going door to door, this is prohibited without a business license;
  • Someone posing as a utility worker when the resident did not generate a call for service;
  • A stranger walking around the neighborhood with no obvious direction or purpose;
  • Someone approaching front doors and walking around to the back of the property when no one answers;
  • Unfamiliar people peering into parked vehicles or removing accessories or property from them;
  • Parked and occupied vehicles that are not typically in a neighborhood or business lot.
  • Scavengers digging through trash bins;
  • Business transactions conducted from vehicles and
  • Any activity at homes tented for fumigation, since they are targets for burglary.
Within weeks of implementing the campaign the calls began to come in with Lakewood experiencing noticeable results. Empowering the community resulted in changes in willingness to report observations. Marketing efforts by the city and sheriff’s personnel and noteworthy results included:
  • Distribution of more than 5,000 “See Something, Say Something” information cards;
  • Distribution of eight publications to 26,000 residences in 2013 containing information on public safety and the “See Something, Say Something” campaign;
  • More than 20 weekly e-magazine stories, sent to 18,000 subscribers, featuring an article on reporting unusual activity;
  • Monthly crime prevention newsletters containing messages on reporting;
  • “See Something, Say Something” posted as a headline story on the city website and shared to Facebook on at least 12 occasions during 2013;
  • An increase in service calls to the Sheriff’s Station by approximately 800 last year;
  • Reports from deputies that residents were flagging them down while driving through neighborhoods to share information; and
  • From December 2012 through December 2013, 24 suspects were arrested in 11 incidents, all based upon calls from residents.
The city wanted to keep the community’s momentum going and inform residents that their feedback is valuable. Lakewood introduced the Be on the Lookout (BOLO) Award to recognize everyday people, willing to call in their observations. The first group of BOLO awards was presented on Nov. 7, 2013 during its annual Award of Valor luncheon, an event that recognizes law enforcement and fire personnel for extraordinary acts of courage; honors brave civilians with mayor’s awards; and highlights volunteers. Ten people were recognized for calling in activity that resulted in arrests, and four additional people were eligible for the award, but declined saying they were just fulfilling their civic duty.


 
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