With a population nearing 100,000, Sandy, Utah, is one of the largest cities in the state. As their population has grown, so have the community engagement efforts of the Sandy Police Department, earning Sandy PD “Honorable Mention” in LAW Publications’ 2021 Community Engagement Awards.
Social Media Initiatives: #SandySecure and #SlowDownSandy
Sandy PD has active social media accounts across all platforms [Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Nextdoor, and Neighbors (by Ring)]. The #SandySecure initiative focuses on informing citizens about different aspects of property crime prevention. On their social media accounts and website, citizens can find helpful information and tips on preventing property crime, protecting personal property, reporting property crime, and more, with a different topic covered each month. Through short videos and graphics, content covers areas of residential burglary, vehicle burglary and theft, bicycle theft, and mail and package theft.
The #SlowDownSandy initiative focuses on raising awareness about the dangers of speeding by providing resources on speeding prevention. Through informative videos and social media posts, Sandy PD is educating their community on not only the facts and figures about speeding but also how community members can work together to prevent it. Part of their campaign involves utilizing pre-made graphics from LAW Digital, which includes a library full of images on a variety of topics, including distracted driving.
Extra Eyes: Neighborhood Watch & Volunteers in Police Services (VIPS)
With the numerous neighborhoods throughout Sandy, Utah, Sandy PD has created informational materials on starting a Neighborhood Watch Program. Currently, the department works with 56 established Neighborhood Watch groups, and they continually recruit citizens to form new groups in their neighborhoods. The manuals available through Sandy PD make it easier and less overwhelming to start or run a Neighborhood Watch group. With their Leadership Manual, Participant Manual, and Starter Manual, members at all levels have a bounty of information at their fingertips, including sample meeting agendas, participant guidelines, and leadership responsibilities.
In addition to the Neighborhood Watch groups that have been established throughout the city, Sandy PD created the Volunteers in Police Services (VIPS) Program. This program is made up of highly trained volunteers, who perform extra patrols, vacation watches, open garage door notifications, and more. Their biggest role is to be visible in the community and engage with citizens. The volunteers in this program patrol the city in a marked volunteer vehicle, which is equipped with a radio assigned by the department, and they report any suspicious activity to the patrol personnel on shift. Currently, Sandy PD has 18 VIPS serving as an extra set of eyes and ears throughout the city.
Community Engagement Efforts
Between participating in and hosting a wide variety of community events and programs like their Walk & Talk Program or Citizens Academy, Sandy PD has excelled in their community engagement efforts in recent years.
Sandy’s “Walk & Talk” Program has been successful in building relationships between community members and officers. By spending even a small amount of time per day outside of their patrol vehicles, officers interact with citizens in a casual manner by walking the community neighborhoods, parks, and trails. This reinforces the human aspect of policing and allows residents to ask questions or voice concerns directly to an officer. Officers carry sticker badges, coloring books, pencils, and brochures with them to help make an impact on those they speak with. Last year, the department documented 2,766 Walk & Talks.
Another program that boosts citizens’ understanding of Sandy PD officers is their Citizens Academy. The purpose of this program is to better understand the role of police officers within their community in an 11-week program, which is only offered once a year. The program is designed for not only residents but also business owners and members of the media to attend and covers a variety of topics, including crime scene investigation and defensive tactics and handcuffing.
Sandy PD Parks Officers engage with the community during a myriad of city events, including the City Trunk or Treat, Annual Balloon Festival, Cultural Celebrations at Hale Theater, and Community Fairs. Additionally, each August, Sandy PD participates in National Night Out Against Crime events. National Night Out allows the officers to visit and engage with 15-20 different neighborhoods each year through attending events hosted by various Neighborhood Watch groups.