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Taking it to the streets

Neighborhood outreach aims to foster good will among police, public

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“It’s time we address this problem and call it for what it is. It’s time we send a clear message that drugs are not welcome anywhere in this community.”

CHIEF STANDLEY

Officers of the Bellefontaine Police Department initiated the first of a series of proactive steps Wednesday to foster community relations and get a handle on widespread drug use.

And no one had to be taken away in handcuffs.

The public service event staged Wednesday at Heritage Court was an occasion for neighbors to get together and get to know their local police officers.

The event was well-attended. People were fed, and police and the public interacted in a fun, crisis-free environment. Children crisscrossed Heritage Court and adults congregated around front stoops. Some people sat outside across the street, or looked from a distance out their windows, but would not join the larger crowd.

“I know those people are listening,” Police Chief Brandon Standley said, referencing the gatherings around the periphery. “The trick is to get them to become active participants.”

The objective is community outreach, Chief Standley said, adding his department is “trying to break down barriers.”

He said that in the days since the D.A.R.E. program, children don’t trust police officers as much as they used to.

“When D.A.R.E was around, kids would chase us down on the street to get the trading cards we used to have and give out,” Chief Standley said. “We had the canine out here earlier for the same reason — to show kids they shouldn’t be afraid of the police dog.

“We’re trying to redevelop that trust.”

Chief Standley also sought to send a clear message to adults: The police need your help.

“The same way you expect a police response when you call, we expect your help if you’re aware of drug activity,” the chief said, addressing the crowd over a loudspeaker.

Most crimes these days are either directly or indirectly the result of drug abuse and addiction, Chief Standley said, adding that Monday’s attempted robbery of the east Columbus Avenue Dollar General is a clear example.

“They need the money to buy the drugs,” he said. “Ask yourself the next time you read about a crime in the newspaper or hear about it on the radio, ‘how was this crime related to drug activity?’ ”

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ABOVE: Bellefontaine Police Lt. Rick Herring poses for pictures Wednesday with children at a community event at Heritage Court. FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Safety Pup, Bellefontaine Police Department’s crime fighting mascot cheers on children as they participate in a bucket-filling relay race Wednesday as part of the community outreach event. EXAMINER PHOTOS | NATE SMITH

There are jobs that are currently going unfilled in this community because too few applicants are capable of passing a drug test, the chief said, emphasizing that anyone with an ongoing drug problem needs to seek help.

“There are people you can call and go see to get help,” he stressed. “Call me if you want to, and I’ll help get you some help, but make a phone call.”

The police department has similar functions planned for yet this summer in other apartment complexes and neighborhoods. The locations are no accident, Chief Standley said.

“It’s time we address this problem and call it for what it is,” he said. “It’s time we send a clear message that drugs are not welcome anywhere in this community.”

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