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What is community engagement?

Law Enforcement Building Trust with Residents


What is Community Engagement? Community Engagement is, as defined by Minnesota Department of Health is “… a type of public participation that involves people in problem-solving or decision-making processes. It is a multifaceted, ongoing process.” Recently, this has been an area where public safety – law enforcement, in particular – has made great strides to improve.

But what’s the value of public safety getting involved with the community for issues that aren’t emergency-related? The answer; to build trust. As many of us who have been actively following the news and the events that have transpired in 2015, law enforcement has received a bad reputation. One of the primary factors is the fact that from just January to May of 2015, there had been close to 400 shootings by law officers according to a report by the Washington Post. In many areas – particularly urban-metro regions – law enforcement is almost viewed as the enemy.

% of violent crimes reported

While it is obvious that a lack of trust in law enforcement isn’t a good thing, it is important to understand why it is a bad thing. From a report created by Portland State University, in 2008 “of all a crimes known… only 17% of property crimes and 45% of violent crimes were cleared to arrest”. On a much larger scale, nationally only 40% of property crimes and 47% of violent crimes were reported to police (statistics provided from National Crime Victimization Survey). This lack of communication can result not only in less arrests, but it can also put residents and law enforcement at risk.

So what can be done to connect agencies with their residents to create or restore trust? Ultimately, it comes down to communication. Agencies need a way to deliver timely information with residents to show they are there to serve them. Community Engagement and Mass Notification systems can be a great start, however, local events such as festivals or even activities like “coffee with a cop,” are a great way to engage and interact with residents and should be initiated to show investment in the community. Law enforcement must also be open to fostering and maintaining this two-way dialog. When something goes wrong, provide details, updates and actionable requests if needed. By doing this, there can be residual positive results for both community members and law enforcement.


Take Anchorage PD, who provide their communities with a wide variety of valuable information, as an example. Events and incidents ranging from missing persons, wanted suspects, and SWAT updates are shared on a consistent basis. This is beneficial because it gives residents a heads up of what is happening so they better understand the situation and what law enforcement is doing to address it. Additionally, it allows them to provide agencies with feedback when needed or available. Recently, because of their active communication they were able locate a missing autistic boy by sharing specific details such as last seen location and a description to residents. A local resident saw the boy, and called police after getting an alert. Within a few hours the entire event was resolved.

Community engagement is no longer something that is just an option or done on an inconsistent basis. To learn how Everbridge and Nixle can help agencies achieve community engagement, request a demo today.

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