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City launches public safety initiative to make Renton safer

Private Security Officers to Provide Visitor Information and Downtown Assistance (VIDA) in Renton

July 14, 2008

For more information contact:

Kevin Milosevich, Chief of Police, Renton Police Department 425-430-7500
Charles Karlewicz, Commander, Renton Police Department 425-430-7640
Preeti Shridhar, Communications Director 425-430-6569

(RENTON) — Starting this month, the City of Renton has added uniformed private security officers to make the Renton Transit Center in downtown Renton a better, safer and friendlier place. The Visitor Information and Downtown Assistance, or VIDA, program is part of the city’s broader community-wide public safety initiative to reduce crime and promote a sense of safety downtown and in the Renton community. The city has signed a contract with Dotson Security, a Renton-based security company, who will provide two officers on foot and bicycle patrol, six days a week.

“Public safety is the cornerstone of a civil society and it is our responsibility to ensure that we do everything possible to make our neighborhoods and community feel safe,” said Renton Mayor Denis Law. “The VIDA program is one of our innovative strategies that will help ensure downtown Renton continues to be a wonderful, safe place for residents and visitors.”

In addition, the city has been actively working on a comprehensive plan to reduce criminal activity and enhance overall safety throughout Renton. The city’s inter-departmental effort includes additional security, increased patrols, security cameras, enhanced code enforcement efforts, a significant emphasis on traffic safety and more.

The Renton City Council recently approved a contract with Dotson Security in the amount of $65,000 for the VIDA program.  The VIDA officers will serve as the eyes and ears of downtown by providing hospitality and public safety services, reporting vandalism and graffiti, deterring criminal activity and extending a helping hand when needed to Renton businesses, citizens and visitors.  Their presence and services will help create a welcoming atmosphere in downtown Renton. They will provide the visitors, businesses and the general public with information about downtown, patrol and monitor the area around the Renton Transit Center, observe and report incidents or suspicious activities, and respond to emergencies. They wear distinctive black and yellow uniforms.

“Crime is a community problem and it will take a community-wide effort to bring about a lasting change,” said Renton Police Chief Kevin Milosevich. “As we continue with our crime reduction efforts, we are also working on the perception of safety.”

Key strategies in downtown Renton include:

• Renton police officer assigned for foot patrol in downtown Renton during the summer.

• Increased police patrols and better surveillance cameras in downtown and the transit center.

• Renton Police Special Operations Division’s relocation to the transit center, providing a proactive police presence.

• Renovations underway at the parking garage for the future relocation of Renton’s traffic unit, providing an increased police presence.
• Coordinated effort between the City of Renton and King County Metro Transit for routine maintenance and cleaning to improve the appearance at the transit center.

Previous efforts to enhance downtown Renton include designing and building a pedestrian-friendly street with urban amenities such as benches and sidewalks, creation of the Piazza Park, construction of City Center Parking—a city-owned parking garage, renovation of the Pavilion Building, and working with businesses and the community on several mixed-use projects. These investments have greatly enhanced downtown.

Other city-wide strategies to keep our city safe include: 

• Creating the Renton Police Special Operations Division, where a pool of officers focus on spikes in criminal activity.
• Implementing E-police, a service that provides the option for on-line reporting of minor crimes. Currently 10% of all reports are made online, providing our patrol officers more time to dedicate in the field.

• Launching the photo enforcement program that includes red light cameras and speed cameras. These help reduce pedestrian accidents and injuries, and free-up resources in the city’s traffic unit to focus on other areas.

• Creating an inter-departmental anti-graffiti and vandalism task force to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to remove and prevent graffiti and vandalism in the city.

“Renton is a beautiful city with great parks and public places and we want to keep it this way, “ said Terry Higashiyama, Administrator, Community Services Department. “Our parks continue to be vandalized, and it's extremely frustrating spending time and money cleaning up graffiti and restoring facilities that have been vandalized. We need the help of the public with this problem. If you see graffiti or vandalism in progress, please call 9-1-1.”

The city has established a graffiti hotline (425-430-7373) to report graffiti on public or private property. Plans are also underway to launch a community-wide program to “wipe-out” graffiti and vandalism. 

“People need to feel safe in their homes and when they are out in the community,” said Mayor Denis Law. “I will continue to emphasize crime reduction and safety in downtown, the Highlands and all our neighborhoods.”