- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Charles County sheriff’s officers are making their way to communities, stopping to have one-on-one conversations with residents and encouraging neighbors to keep an eye on one another.
While the sheriff’s office always has been a presence in communities, administrators recently put in place an effort allowing more officers to reach neighborhoods during the day and evening hours.
Officers are reaching neighborhoods primarily where increased crime has been reported and where citizens have voiced concerns.
Electronic sign boards are used to indicate that officers are in the area and residents are encouraged to say hello if they see an officer.
The initiative is in its third week and began with a report of an increase in burglaries and thefts from cars in the Waldorf area, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Diane Richardson said.
On Monday morning, sheriff’s officers Pfc. Daniel Baker and Pfc. Paul Sady were patrolling on bicycles in the Acton Village neighborhoods in Waldorf as part of the initiative.
When they ride bikes, Baker and Sady said officers often appear more approachable.
During the day, as part of the initiative, certain neighborhoods might see more bicycle patrol officers and officers on all-terrain vehicles in addition to officers who patrol in police cruisers.
If residents were outside their homes during their patrol, Baker and Sady introduced themselves and offered a flier explaining what residents can do to make the community safer.
The flier, which is part of the initiative, encourages people to get to know their neighbors and to report any unusual activity in the neighborhood.
During one interaction, a resident told the officers that she has been a nosy neighbor and reported suspicious activity in the past and would not hesitate to do it again.
The two officers were greeted by residents washing cars, taking walks and sitting on their front steps enjoying the weather.
“This is similar to what we do on a daily basis,” Baker said of him and Sady patrolling neighborhoods on bicycles.
The officers check vacant houses to see that they were secure in addition to talking with residents as part of their patrol.
Some differences with this initiative as opposed to regular patrol include handing out fliers, a command post in neighborhoods to serve as a meet-and-greet station for residents to talk with officers and the electronic sign boards with positive messages regarding the initiative. Richardson said neighborhoods where the initiative is taking place also will see increased speed enforcement, which was requested by residents in a recent survey conducted by the sheriff’s office.
Sady said the response from residents for the most part has been positive. He said some thank them and others indicate there are too many officers. Baker said the purpose of the increased presence in the community is to “make sure [neighbors] are looking out for one another” and calling the sheriff’s office if there are any concerns.
“We want people to feel comfortable calling for anything. You never know what it could turn out to be,” he said.
Sheriff Rex Coffey said efforts in the communities are to show that the sheriff’s office is serious about crime and also to build relationships with everyone, especially young people, letting them know “officers are here to help.”