By Robert Goetz, Sergeant; Aaron Snell, Officer; and Ed Golden, Officer, Everett, Washington, Police Department
verett is a medium-sized city that includes the largest Boeing aircraft manufacturing facility in the United States, Naval Station Everett with the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier group, and the Port of Everett containing the second largest marina on the West Coast.
In the fall of 2008, Everett’s city council asked the police department’s crime prevention unit for a higher-profile crime prevention effort within the community. This request came as somewhat of a surprise, since the crime prevention unit had many robust programs that reached nearly every segment of the community: block watch, crime-free rental housing, a very successful National Night Out event, Business Watch, safety fairs, and about 250 community presentations each year. However, if the city council was unaware of these efforts, then maybe the marketing and messaging efforts were failing.
In mid-October 2008, the crime prevention unit met with the city communications director to create a better marketing plan, emphasizing getting the message to all areas in the community. The theory was that citizens listen and act on crime prevention ideas if the message is simple and related to their everyday lifestyles. Once interested, citizens will implement the techniques, thus making the community a safer place.
After lengthy brainstorming sessions to refine the goals, a multipronged approach called Project Impact emerged. The major components of Project Impact include rebranding all crime prevention programs; dividing the programs into quarterly seasonal topics related to everyday lifestyle issues; streamlining and presenting a simple compelling message; and, a communication strategy, increasing the public profile within the community.
Rebranding the Crime Prevention Program
Agencies wanting to start or update a crime prevention program often look to colleagues around the nation for the latest trends and best business practices. Many agencies want to implement a predesigned generic product. This cost-neutral approach is especially attractive in a time of tight budgets and essentially eliminates workforce issues.
As Everett debated, although costing more and taking more time, the benefits of undertaking a one-time rebranding effort significantly outweighed the financial and time disadvantages since the final product would be community-specific. Everett’s initial theory also relied on the community looking to local law enforcement for crime prevention information.
The Everett Police Department’s rebranding project moved forward, focusing on creating an image that portrayed strength and security that everyday citizens could associate with law enforcement, while softening the law enforcement image. The obvious choice to Everett officers was a German Shepherd dog as the mascot.
Inlaying the German Shepherd image on a badge is the brand denoting the Everett Police Department Crime Prevention Unit. After researching Everett’s history, officers named the dog Colby after the son of a city founder. This new brand is prominent on all of the department’s crime prevention products and literature.
Evaluating the Messages
The next step was to evaluate the crime prevention program to determine if the message presented to the community was on point and presented in a way that individual citizens could make sense of and actually implement in their everyday lives. The result? Crime prevention literature needed to be more clearly defined and condensed on one page that would simply be called a one sheet. The critical information needed on a particular topic, such as burglary prevention, could be presented on a one sheet and the home or business owner should be able to act on the tips on the one sheet to prevent crime.
Other community programs, such as crime-free rental housing and the block watch program, were streamlined to reveal what tools community members heading up these programs needed to make their jobs easier. The easier the community’s job, the less the crime prevention unit needed to be involved.
This part of the rebranding project was a very labor-intensive effort and required dedicating at least one full-time officer. It was, however, a very critical part in achieving the ultimate goal of making the community a safer place to live and work.
Marketing Crime Prevention Messages
A crime prevention unit is only as good as its ability to get information to the community it serves. So developing a communications strategy is important to a successful crime prevention program.
In the early stages of Everett’s Project Impact, the crime prevention unit was transferred from the patrol division to police administration, working directly under the public information sergeant and, by extension, the police chief’s office. This strategy accomplished two goals:
Goal 1. It satisfied the chief’s desire to have more direct input into the workings of the crime prevention unit and to provide support when needed.
Goal 2. It increased the public profile of Everett’s crime prevention efforts.
The benefits of this organizational placement can be of tremendous value but only if it applies to the overall rebranding strategy.
Marketing crime prevention messages requires considering at least two marketing strategies. First is direct marketing to the customer. In commercial marketing, direct marketing is the discount flier on the car windshield or the direct mail offering in the mailbox. This direct marketing strategy works well in certain instances, for example to alert a neighborhood about a rash of vehicle break-ins. Today, police departments utilize many message streams including Web site postings, e-mail lists, and social media sites like Nixle, Facebook, or Twitter. Using social media messaging tools requires upfront work.
Developing an e-mail list of key people who can mass distribute the crime prevention message can help in marketing crime prevention. That list might include block watch captains, neighborhood group leaders, and business leaders. One drawback to the key person method is relying upon someone else to deliver the message. Another option is developing and retaining an “opt in” program where the citizen must reply with an e-mail message that they wish to receive e-mail from the police department. This option allows more accurate tracking to gauge the message delivery effectiveness.
All agencies should consider using social networking. An essential consideration is to decide how a social network will work for the department and how much time staff can dedicate to maintaining the social network. To be effective, some social networks require a two-way conversation with the end user that can consume a significant amount of staff time; other networks simply require the agency to post the information. Legal advice regarding usage policies should be developed before using, and the required commitment gauged.
The local news media is another crime prevention marketing outlet. The crime prevention unit can approach the local newspaper and propose a weekly crime prevention tip posted in the paper or on its Web site. Local radio and television news stations are always looking for something community oriented to put in their newscasts. A similar approach with the news stations may provide an additional opportunity for placing a contemporary crime prevention message in front of a large audience. The department’s Web site could use streaming video and even pop-up advertisements for crime prevention messages.
The Implementation Strategy
Once the rebranding, development of the new messages, and communication means are established, the department needs to consider the messaging strategy. Everett Police Department decided to conduct a quarterly messaging strategy to deliver the crime prevention material. The next step was to decide on the theme.
Everett decided to focus on the seasons—winter, spring, summer, and fall—and tailored its crime prevention message to those seasonal activities. For example, spring focuses on crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) by offering the community information on landscaping, lighting, and locks. Spring-cleaning is an excellent time for home or business owners to address these design issues. Fall focuses on back-to-school safety, covering crosswalks and school zone compliance and Halloween safety. This quarterly approach allows the department to establish the crime prevention calendar with a preplanned outline that does not require reinventing every year.
Everett’s Project Impact has many other parts that have helped increase the crime prevention profile. For example, Project Impact is a local-access crime prevention television show. One segment of the show was based on CPTED, where the department partnered with local businesses to make a home in Everett safer and more secure. That televised show provided critical crime prevention information to the rest of the community by demonstrating how to make homes safe at very little expense.
The department’s open house program gives the community the opportunity to see police specialty gear and talk with officers from all divisions about what they do and what it is like to be a police officer. An event like this allows citizens to feel a part of the department and gains support for officers in the community.
One of the most successful marketing tools of Everett’s Project Impact was the purchase of a German Shepherd mascot suit used at several public events to deliver the crime prevention message. Its success has proven the purchase a good investment.
Transferability of Project Impact
In late 2008, the concepts of Everett’s Project Impact had been fully developed and were ready for presentation to the chief of police and the mayor. The chief and mayor provided full support, including financing and giving the team the authority and means to move forward. The police chief also asked the team to package the crime prevention program so any police agency could use it.
Additionally, the chief’s concept to present a workshop at the 2009 Annual IACP Conference held in Denver, Colorado, was accepted by the conference organizers. The established objective of this workshop was to provide the attendees with a compact disc that would contain a turnkey crime prevention program. The team took on the challenge and developed the Project Impact workshop. The workshop focuses on three criteria. First, the program needed to be comprehensive but simple to use. Second, materials needed to be customizable to the agency using it. For example, an agency should be able to take one of the one sheet messages, and insert its own logo and department information thus customizing it. The third and final criterion was no cost. Months of hard work by the Project Impact team culminated at the annual IACP conference in Denver where the workshop was presented to chief administrators from around the world. Readers interested in learning more about the Everett Police Department Crime Prevention Unit’s Project Impact should e-mail the unit at email@example.com. ■
|Everett, WashingtonBy the Numbers|
|The City102,300 Population27% Under the age of 1920% Over the age of 55||The Police Department$26.2 million police department budget198 Uniformed officers44 Civilian employees|