At Night Out Against Crime, a plan to reduce burglaries in Salt Lake City
At his podium in Westpointe Park, Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank could see a garage door left wide open across the street.
That is exactly the sort of behavior that the police want people to stop. At the annual Night Out Against Crime on Tuesday evening, an event meant to focus public attention on fighting back, Burbank issued a challenge to people to reduce burglary 25 percent by this time next year.
Officers analyzed about 2,000 cases from June 2012 through May 2013 and found about 25 percent of residential burglary victims had not secured their property such as leaving doors unlocked or garage doors open making it easy for a thief. Burbank challenged people to take "a little time and energy" to secure their homes and vehicles so that they do not become victims of opportunity.
"We're not talking about paranoia. We're just talking preparedness and helping reduce our risk," Burbank said.
The police department launched a website Tuesday about the challenge, which offers checklists and tips on protecting your property and will also track monthly burglary statistics through next year. Salt Lake City police provide an informational packet on how to protect yourself against car burglary at their website: slcpd.com/community/information-brochures
The website also has brochures with other safety tips, including bicycle safety, reporting suspicious activity and how to form a neighborhood watch group.
Erin Youngberg, chair of the Westpointe Community Council, ran a booth at the Night Out event trying to recruit 20 people to the neighborhood watch, currently comprised of a handful of people. He wants the watch group to patrol the neighborhoods during the evening and serve as the eyes and ears for the police. He hopes to see his neighbors become harder targets for would-be burglars.
"Public safety is everyone's responsibility... We will do our best and implement the challenge [the police have] given us" Youngberg said.
But he also wants the neighborhood watch members to not endanger themselves. It is against the Salt Lake City Police Department's rules for watch group members to carry a gun.
National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit, developed Night Out Against Crime almost 30 years ago to promote such groups. The Salt Lake City neighborhood watch supervisor, Detective Rick Wall, has said the program produces "phenomenal" results.
Liberty Wells has a well-established neighborhood watch group and typically lower crime statistics than neighboring East Liberty, which is working toward starting a group.
"We'll never have enough police officers to stand on every street corner... We can't do it alone," said city councilman Carlton Christensen, who attended the Westpointe Park press conference. Even if crime overall is down, one is too many "it's still your house, it's still your car, it's still your family" when a theft occurs, he said.
Salt Lake City leaders have a goal to make the capitol a "Great American City," which includes safe neighborhoods, said Mayor Ralph Becker, who also spoke at the event.
Besides the Westpointe Night Out event at the park, the East Liberty and Glendale community councils also held events. Traditionally, Night Out also involves people leaving their porch lights on as a symbolic casting out of life's darkness.