A soft spot for Western Branch

Published 10:53 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Eric Hayes, who serves as the community resource officer for the Chesapeake Police Department’s 4th Precinct, has become a recognized face in in the Western Branch community over the years.

“It’s a great position to be in,” Hayes said.

Hayes, a resident of the area for more than 20 years, has developed a soft spot for his community. He and his team have led various community initiatives and food drives.
Hayes said in order to promote community continuity, you need to “build bridges between the police department and community.”

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Typically, the precinct focuses its efforts in the Holly Cove and Dunedin communities.
During the summer, police and residents of both communities gather for an evening of fun, conversation and unity. There are K-9 demonstrations, SWAT truck demonstrations, book drives and other events.

Hayes said the community days provide a counterpoint to the volatile police and community relationships seen nationwide.

“We know the folks in the community, so these types of things don’t happen in Chesapeake,” he said. “We’re all in this together as a department and a community.”

During the holiday season, Hayes and his team transition to humanitarian efforts.

Last Christmas, the precinct selected a family from Holly Cove and one from Dunedin to provide with gifts and food donations.

Hayes recalled the community helped collect a van full of items for each family.

For Thanksgiving this year, a local Walmart donated 10 turkeys to a local civic league. Together, the precinct and the league distributed the turkeys to families in need in Holly Cove and Dunedin.

Additionally, the precinct helps stock the H.E.R. Shelter with its requested items.

Hayes said the community’s appreciation for the precinct’s efforts is what keeps him going.

“Being able to know you truly help people in need and the appreciation they show is worth it,” he said.

Hayes has served as the precinct’s community resource officer for more than four years and as an officer for just under 17 years, serving 13 to 14 of those years in the Western Branch area.