NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – Learning lessons and changing perceptions. Those are some of the benefits of the Community Policing program Niagara Falls police are trying out.
“Safe Shopping Days” is the Falls’ version of community policing which has been on the books for years, but police just opened the book a few years ago, realizing it is critical to their job to “Serve and Protect”.
City officials believe Community Policing serves a number of purposes: it gets cops closer to the folks they are serving and protecting, and Deputy Police Commissioner Carlton Cain says, it helps to build relationships with businesses and residents.
“It affords us the opportunity to get out in the community and do more things that the community wants us to do, rather than just ride around in a police car and be reactive.”
On Tuesday afternoon “Safe Shopping Days” also might have helped to prepare the next generation of potential police officers for a career of public service, as police took a group of students from Niagara Catholic High School with them as they patrolled the Pine Avenue business strip.
The education component of Community Policing is a joint effort of the mayor’s office, the Niagara Falls Police Department, Niagara Catholic H.S., and Niagara University.
Police officers teach classes at Niagara Catholic, and students get credit at Niagara University from their firsthand experience. Student Lauren Licata said it is something they can share with others.
Lauren is the daughter of Police Lt. Thomas Licata, and the outing convinced her that people need to see there is more to policing than arresting people, “They don’t like police officers or law enforcement, and other people see things on TV and interpret it differently than it really is. So it is good to know what really happens.”
Niagara Falls cops also recognize community policing cuts both ways–real life, not a TV drama, which Cain said can be frustrating at times.
“Not only do people expect us to solve a crime within 30 minutes, but in reality they forgot how important the community is with us solving crimes. Without the community most crimes, still to this day, go unsolved.”
Cain explained Community Policing is 99% foot patrol, a throwback to the cop on the beat, but during summer events, they also patrol on bikes. So far, officials have not compiled figures on Community Policing’s effectiveness in fighting crime, but Cain was emphatic when he said, “the public loves it.”