Old-fashioned program a hit

Published 9:26 pm Monday, October 5, 2009

For Downtown Suffolk residents, workers and business owners, news of another robbery or even a vandalism incident can make the day a little harder to finish. There’s probably nobody in Suffolk who feels more alone than a store clerk working by herself in a business near an area that recently experienced violent crime.

Folks in the downtown area now have a reason to feel safer, a bit more like they’ve got friends who are looking out for them just around the corner.

A new program instituted by Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Bennett has members of his department walking a beat through the downtown area, stopping to talk to pedestrians passing through the area, checking on businesses and vacant buildings and greeting employees of the area’s restaurants and shops.

It’s all part of Bennett’s philosophy of community policing, which calls for police officers to be closer to the areas they serve, to get out of their cars and into situations where they can get to know people more personally. Bennett also has increased bicycle patrols as a part of his policy.

So far, officers involved in the program seem to enjoy the new policy, and the folks with whom they come into contact seem glad to be on the receiving end of the department’s interest. Officers have used their visits to advise business owners on how to make their businesses safer and how to help police improve their ability to respond to emergencies.

Some folks have said the program reminds them of the old days in Suffolk. In this case, at least, going back to old times is a step ahead for the city. Bennett made a great move by instituting the program.