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Employee of the year: Public Safety Administrator Jennifer Hales Makes Safety Her Priority

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Many residents of University Place recognize Jennifer Hales even if they don’t know her by name. As the public safety administrator for the U.P. Police Department, she’s a familiar face at many community block watch meetings. She has been instrumental in managing the city’s Crime-Free Multi-Family Rental Housing Program, and also helps organize U.P.’s annual National Night Out festivities and other programs such as fire arms safety and women’s defense classes.

And she does all that on a part-time basis. Hales started with the City nearly 20 years ago when a grant-funded position was created to support Community Oriented Policing (COPS). The new job came with a desk, a phone and a computer…and not a whole lot else. “We didn’t really have a model to copy since this was a new program for us,” she recalls.

But Hales did not let that deter her. She began asking both police officers and residents what they perceived to be the biggest safety concerns in U.P. She quickly learned that police officers were repeatedly responding to calls that did not necessarily fall under the realm of law enforcement. “Sometimes these calls were related to landlord-tenant issues, sometimes they involved mental health issues, but the end result was that they were taking deputies off the streets and unavailable to respond to true crime emergencies,” she says.

So she went about developing a program that would enable both renters and their landlords to address common issues regarding personal safety and property protection. The Crime-Free Multi-Family Rental Housing Program builds relationships between renters, landlords and the police by offering sessions on crime prevention tips. Landlords can tour their properties with a police officer to identify potential problem areas, and Hales facilitates community meetings so that residents and landlords can stay informed about issues in their buildings. “By taking a proactive approach and educating people about what other resources are available to address some of the more common problems that arise, we’ve been able to manage our limited manpower more effectively,” she says.

Using that same proactive mindset, Hales also works with single-family residential neighborhoods in the city to establish neighborhood watch programs. “I will go out and meet with residents to educate them on crime prevention. I bring the most recent crime data so that we can pinpoint the exact type and timing of certain crimes to target our prevention efforts more effectively,” she says.

After his neighborhood was beset by a series of car prowls, Greg Rolsma asked Hales to help him work with his neighbors to organize a neighborhood watch program. “Jennifer was great to work with,” Rolsma says. “She and Chief (Mike) Blair came out and spoke to a group of about 12 of us. I was very impressed. They shared some statistics about crime in the area and told us things we should do and things we shouldn’t do. Jennifer even brought us a Neighborhood Watch sign.”

Hales has also worked with area businesses to address safety issues on their properties, including overgrown landscaping, secluded fenced areas and poorly lit exteriors and parking lots. “We recently worked with a business that had an enormous hedge that was creating a neighborhood nuisance and attracting vagrants,” she says. “Chief Blair hand-delivered a letter to the property owner explaining that the hedge was a problem and within two days it was gone. So were the vagrants.”

Through her crime prevention efforts over the past 20 years, Hales has developed many key relationships with U.P. residents and business owners, as well as other law enforcement personnel from around Pierce County. Those relationships result in shared information among all stakeholders that ultimately makes University Place a safer and stronger community.

Even though Hales’ 25-hour work weeks are jam-packed, she has no complaints. “I love what I do and am very passionate about it,” she says.

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