Officers On Neighborhood Watch

By: Michael Gorsegner
By: Michael Gorsegner

July 23, 2005

For years, police officers have often been met with resistance in many communities. Charlottesville City police are trying to change that mindset with an old technique.

The more you interact with people, the more comfortable they are going to be with you, and that techinique is now being used by the Charlottesville Police Department.

"The officers that patrolled the area usually couldn't maintain their presence in this area," said Sgt. Mark Brake of Charlottesville Police.

To respond to this growing need, Chief Tim Longo instituted a community policing policy when he joined the force three years ago. The idea, to assign officers to certain neighborhoods so they can get to know the people and make a difference.

"We've been doing the geographic assignments for about three years now, and we and the Neighborhood Service Bureau have two officers assigned to this geographic area," Brake said.

Community policing is a combined effort between officers, citizens and groups like the Piedmont Housing Alliance. All combined can be beneficial to the overall welfare of the city.

"We've tapped into those resources and it helped us accomplish some goals...and hopefully [will help us] accomplish more." said Brake.

On this night, officers broke up a group of men doing drugs at a park. While deterring crime is always important, the interaction with the public is priceless. But like all plans, there are certain difficulties.

"Some of the biggest challenges is getting the resources, and the community and the police department all on the same page," he said.

Sgt. Brake believes the police are making in roads and the program is a vital component.

"The Chief and we as a department are committed to make it work," he said.

Officers control these neighborhoods about four times a week. They say the better they get to know the community, the more comfortable the people will feel, and the safer the community will be.

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