Accreditation celebration: Four-county area officially given ‘safe community’ status

Published 4:01 pm Friday, February 9, 2018

After two years of work, Boyle, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties were formally accredited as “safe communities” Jan. 25.

“I think this is kind of special to see four counties come together and work so closely together and make this accomplishment,” said Steve Sparrow with the University of Kentucky, which has been central to the growth in the number of safe communities in Kentucky.

The Safe Communities Coalition of Central Kentucky is one of just 31 communities in the U.S. that have achieved “safe community” accreditation, said Carrie Nie with Safe Communities of America. Kentucky has the most accredited safe communities of any state in the country.

Pulling four different counties together for accreditation was a unique strategy, and it paid off, said Dr. Stephanie Blevins, executive director of the Heart of Kentucky United Way, the lead organization for the coalition.

“Based on the final report from Safe Communities of America, our assumption that a four-county coalition would be stronger, more effective, were validated,” Blevins said. “As per the report, the site visits highlighted our interconnectivity, making it evident that our counties have strengths that when we work together are incredible. We are great as counties, but we are truly incredible as a community.

“… This is not the end, it’s just the beginning. We challenge each of our safe community task forces to treat this as a beginning — continue to look for ways we can make our communities safer for the people that live and work here.”

Nie said being an accredited safe community comes with benefits: safe communities can earn further accreditations, use their accreditations in grant-writing, and use their accreditation to benefit economic development efforts.

“There’s a lot of opportunity with this accreditation,” Nie said.

The need for safety is clear, she added, referencing the recent school shooting in Marshall County.

“The reality is that we still have too many injuries. I know I don’t need to say that to this room,” she said. “This week, right here in Kentucky, there’s been more violence in schools. These are horrible incidents and they are precious reminders that our work is nowhere near being done. We all have a place in the safety game.”