When I was first sworn in as police chief in 2016, it quickly became apparent that improving overall safety in Whitehall would take a communitywide, systematic effort.

Now, just under four years later and with the first three-year Safer Whitehall strategic plan completed, positive change is evident throughout our community.

Thanks to a comprehensive effort from the city and our many partners, Whitehall's reputation quickly has changed to that of a city on the rise, with home-sale prices rapidly increasing and measurable improvements in overall safety.

As I reported during the Safer Whitehall virtual town hall in early May, from 2017-19, violent crime fell by 27%, robberies decreased by 38% and burglaries plummeted 47% from the prior three-year period.

As we head into the second iteration of the strategic plan, the division of police and I are committed to continuing these positive trends.

But because of the COVID-19 coronavirus, your role as a community member in keeping Whitehall safe just became even more essential.

Late last year, I wrote to you about the importance of social capital, meaning that a community is united in a sense of purpose and opportunity. Now, more than ever, the division of police needs the Whitehall community to be united in its efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 while also helping each other through the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

If you're unsure of how to do your part, take it back to the basics.

Practice good hygiene habits and social distancing, and if you're able, wear a mask when you're in public.

If we do these things together as a community while also following the guidelines from the Stay Safe Ohio Order, the men and women of the Whitehall Division of Police will be able to stay focused on preventing, solving and responding to crime in our community.

As we continue responding to the many unknowns of COVID-19, remember that we are here for you should you need assistance.

While our emergency dispatchers may ask health-screening questions and our front-line officers may wear masks, we are committed to keeping you safe as always.

We also recognize that while you are staying home as much as possible, home may not be safe for everyone. Never hesitate to call for help if you are in an unsafe domestic situation.

We do ask, however, that as you have questions about compliance with the Stay Safe Ohio Order, you contact our partners at Franklin County Public Health. Their teams are focused on responding to questions and complaints so that we can continue dedicating our full force and effort to our core missions.

Additionally, if you're willing to go above and beyond, consider how you might thank our health-care workers, support our local businesses, help those less fortunate than yourself or show support for Whitehall-Yearling High School's graduating seniors.

Thank you for all your effort and sacrifice thus far in this uncertain time. As we make our way through this, I continue to challenge you to ask yourself, "What will I do today to make Whitehall safer?"

Mike Crispen is chief of the Whitehall Division of Police.