This blog post is part of a series highlighting best practices in community policing by police departments nationwide as part of IACP’s Community Policing: The Next Generation and Task Force on 21st Century Policing projects. The projects showcase innovative and effective solutions to building trust and creating opportunities to collaborate with community stakeholders to increase public safety. These projects are funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Shakopee, Minnesota, Police Department is a recipient of the 2015 IACP/Cisco Community Policing Award.
The city of Shakopee, Minnesota, located 30 miles from downtown Minneapolis, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States and has a diverse population. Community policing has always been a top priority for the Shakopee Police Department (SPD). Volunteering is strongly encouraged and regular Coffee with a Cop programs and crime prevention seminars are held in both English and Spanish. The police department also continually engages partners in the community through in-person meetings and community surveys to identify and solve problems.
One area of concern for the community was one the police were not aware of prior to these meetings and surveys. Through a citizen survey, community members indicated that they wanted the city to curb gang activity and prevent youth crime, including graffiti. This input from the community was somewhat surprising, because graffiti never represented a high percentage of the police department’s call load. The SPD set out to address the prevalence of graffiti in the community and developed the Team-Up Against Graffiti (TAG) initiative.
The purpose of the TAG initiative is to move from reactively covering up graffiti to proactively protecting public areas and reducing graffiti while engaging the public. Funding was secured through grants, donations, and community fundraising to purchase anti-graffiti coating and the group engaged the community and police officers to help apply the coating to frequently hit areas. Since the initiative began, more than 25,000 square feet of public space has been permanently protected against vandalism.
In addition to helping paint, the department sought to engage the community as observers to help prevent crime. The agency engaged existing community policing components, including Night to Unite, the Dog Walker Watch, and Neighborhood Watch, in their anti-graffiti efforts. For example, through the Dog Walker Watch program, the department trains residents to effectively observe and report suspicious activity while walking their dogs in local parks and neighborhoods.
The SPD also utilizes social media to engage with the community including the youth. Since adapting social media in 2013, residents commented they feel more connected to the department and appreciate how the police interact with the community.
Because of the TAG initiative, the community has experienced a 65 percent decrease in graffiti over the last 3 years. Through the TAG initiative and other efforts, the Shakopee Police Department continues to engage and build strong relationships with the community.