The Mercer Island Police Department (MIPD) wasn’t able to hold its annual National Night Out against crime in August, but the officers still wanted to connect with the community on this critical topic during the pandemic.
Enter the first of six virtual block watches that have lit up residents’ computer screens since then.
“That is always a big push for us to get everybody out and talk about crime prevention. We just started getting requests again. It’s like, ‘Hey, can we do a block watch?’” said Jennifer Franklin, police officer and emergency manager.
A couple of the tech-savvy MIPD officers created a virtual platform to host block watches, and residents were on board with the Emergency Management Program’s offerings. Approximately 20 Islanders have attended each meeting, according to City Manager Jessi Bon during her report at the March 2 city council meeting.
In the emergency preparedness realm, the program’s volunteers have rolled out four Map Your Neighborhood (MYN) events over the last several months, drawing in about 15 residents each time out, Bon said.
Franklin said the block watches and neighborhood events have been well-received, adding about the MYNs: “It’s a great way to see your neighbors. That’s half the battle with crime prevention or even emergency preparedness, is knowing your neighbors, knowing who should be there, who you can rely on.”
Whether it’s mail theft, vehicle prowls and other crimes, Franklin said neighbors should look out for each other and share information and report the crimes.
Volunteer Pat Hackett spoke to the Reporter on Friday, just after finishing a shift at the “March Maskness” mask giveaway event at Aubrey Davis Park. She said the MYN events have garnered copious interest, especially following the February storms and power outages.
Hackett said, ironically, the last in-person MYN event took place the day before the governor issued the stay-at-home order nearly a year ago.
“I think having done these Map Your Neighborhood events in the past, and then people seeing what a big event like this can do to society, has been beneficial in encouraging people to keep wanting the events as we go on into the pandemic. So it’s been a continuum, I think,” Hackett said.
Franklin said the city activated its Emergency Operations Center at the end of February 2020 and it’s still in operation. She hopes that everyone can be vaccinated soon and kids can all return to school as well.
“I think our community is so tight, and it’s just hungering for that connectedness again,” Franklin said. “I can’t wait until we can go ahead and just be in person, but until then, we’re making do as much as we can.”
Upcoming virtual events are:
* “Paws on Patrol” at 5 p.m. March 24. To register, contact email@example.com. Visit: https://www.mercerisland.gov/police/page/paws-patrol.
* C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team) course begins at 6 p.m. April 19. To register, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit: https://www.mercerisland.gov/emergency-management/page/cert-community-emergency-response-team-course.