Editorial: We all want a safe community

No matter which direction you lean politically, the desire to live in a safe community is something we can all agree on. And that, at its core, is the essence of National Night Out.

Tonight, Aug. 1, communities across Carroll, Maryland and the country will gather at parks, police and fire stations, and other places along with members of local law enforcement and emergency responders for the 34th annual event.

National Night Out was established in 1983 with the goal of promoting stronger relationships among law enforcement officers and members of the communities they patrol, bringing the two together under positive circumstances. The hope is those relationships work toward building safer neighborhoods.

Generally speaking, Carroll County is a very safe place to live. In fact, according to the latest data available from the 2015 Maryland State Police Uniform Crime Report, Carroll’s crime rate of 1,388.5 per 100,000 people is the lowest in the state. The rate is even better in some of the municipalities. Last year, Sykesville, Manchester, Hampstead and Taneytown were all ranked among the top 10 safest towns in Maryland by SafeWise, a national home security company.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that each of those communities has a small, municipal police force that actively participates in community events to foster good relationships with its residents. All four will also host National Night Out events tonight, which will include visits from police K-9 units, law enforcement and emergency vehicles for kids to explore, music, and food, among other activities.

Because the county is considered to be so safe, when violent crime does occur, it can rock our communities. Such was the case in Westminster earlier this year when two seemingly unrelated sexual assaults occurred in a matter of two weeks. A woman walking her dog was grabbed inappropriately by an unknown assailant Jan 25. On Feb. 10, a McDaniel College student was sexually assaulted by an unknown man.

That, combined with increasing drug problems in downtown that are not exclusive to Westminster but nonetheless very visible here, has changed the perception of safety in the city for some. It also led to the creation of the Westminster Public Safety Advisory Council, which will have a presence at some of Westminster’s National Night Out events at six locations — Bishop Garth, Eaglewood, Furnace Hills, Belle Grove Square, Dutterer’s Park and Carroll Lutheran Village.

Again, we all want to feel safe in the communities we live in, and National Night Out is an opportunity to engage with your neighbors, elected officials and law enforcement about safety concerns in your neighborhoods, establish relationships and share ideas on how to prevent crime and keep Carroll the safest place to live in Maryland.