hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

April 10, 2014

Outreach to neighborhoods allows police, residents to become familiar


The Haverhill Gazette

---- — If you’ve been near a big fire or crime scene in the last few years, you’ve likely seen the Police Department’s special command vehicle.

It’s a big Winnebago outfitted with equipment such as computers — making it essentially a police station on wheels.

In any kind of emergency, the department can use the vehicle to keep officers on the scene for days at a time, bringing a true sense of police presence to the area.

If there is trouble in an inner-city neighborhood, for example, the vehicle can park right in the heart of the neighborhood, allowing officers to constantly walk the area, discouraging gangs and other street crime.

But the vehicle allows another kind of neighborhood outreach as well, one that can ease possible tension between officers and residents of tough neighborhoods.

The vehicle goes to events such as National Night Out, an annual event where police chip in to serve cookout-style food to people who live near the inner-city Swasey Field.

The vehicle also visits the annual KidsFest event, which draws families from across the community, many from the inner city. Children are allowed to look inside the vehicle, maybe even take a tour to get a better understanding of police work.

Most recently, the vehicle was outfitted with information about job training and dispatched to the Mount Washington neighborhood. (See story, Page 1.)

This made it possible for people looking for a job, but who lack transportation to get to a training site, to have the information brought to them.

This effort by police to reach out to the public, whether for neighborhood events or to help with job training, can only benefit the community.

It’s a way to remove the mystery behind police work and show residents that officers are simply regular people who want to help.

Sometimes all it takes is an open door and a smile to make a friend.