The Village of Skokie recently received a Voice of the People Award (VOP) for Transformation in Safety from the International City/County Management Association and the National Research Center (NRC) in Boulder, Colorado, based on Skokie residents’ responses to the Village’s 2018 National Citizen Survey.
The VOP awards are given annually to communities conducting the citizen survey with the highest or most improved ratings as voiced by their own residents. Quoting the NRC, the Village of Skokie “demonstrated a commitment to best practices in moving your community forward” and, further, showed excellence in listening and acting for the community’s benefit, as evidenced by Skokie residents reporting the “highest levels of improvement in this category (public safety) as compared with all other participating jurisdictions.”
The percentage of positive ratings Skokie residents gave to their overall feeling of safety in the community rose by six percent between the 2015 and 2018 citizen surveys. In addition, the percentage of positive ratings for all public safety indicators in the 2018 citizen survey all showed increases from the 2015 citizen survey, with the largest gain evidenced in crime prevention, with a 12 percent increase in excellent/good ratings. When compared to 344 communities across the nation that surveyed residents last year, a majority of Skokie’s 2018 safety ratings fell above national benchmarks.
Since summer 2015, the Village has significantly increased community policing outreach through a number of initiatives including the “Many Cultures, One Community – Keeping Skokie Safe” campaign developed by the Public Safety Commission that routinely brings the Community Outreach Police Substation or “COPS vehicle” into Skokie neighborhoods and parks. Skokie police officers engage with residents in a friendly manner, distributing crime prevention literature and answering questions.
Numerous other Village departments and community partners and Village commissions assisted with the effort.
Health and Human Services Department staff came to COPS vehicle neighborhood visits, and they facilitated involvement by representatives of several community health organizations, including Asian Human Services.
The Human Relations Commission partnered with the School District 69 Parent PLUS group to organize the first-ever block parties in several multi-family neighborhoods in conjunction with COPS vehicle visits. Staff from the Skokie Public Library also join the police officers on occasion to provide storytimes and activities for children and the Skokie Park District coordinates several free hot dog cook-outs in parks each summer where the COPS vehicle was stationed. The Beautification Commission beautified parks in these neighborhoods, too.
Importantly, these efforts were complemented by increased attention to neighborhood aesthetics by the Public Works Department and Property Standards Division of the Community Development Department, in conjunction with the Neighborhood Integrity Ordinance. Several years ago, additional streetlights were installed in several neighborhoods as part of the initiative.
Numerous other programs contributed to the increased perception of public safety, some of which include:
- Expansion of the annual National Night Out community celebration
- Increased promotion of the Neighborhood Watch program
- Increased promotion of block parties on a community-wide basis, and visits by firefighters and police officers to many of these neighborhood events
- Skokie police officers’ participation in community/charitable fundraising events at numerous local restaurants
- The ‘Chat with the Chief’ initiative at Wednesdays on the Green
- The friendly presence of police officers and the COPS vehicle at the Skokie Festival of Cultures, Skokie’s Backlot Bash and other community events
- The Cops with Kids initiative
- The fall 2016 and spring 2018 Community Spaghetti Dinners
The Transformation in Safety Award is a testament to the Village’s multi-disciplinary approach to public safety and community outreach.