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Winston-Salem police spend off-duty hours meeting the people they serve

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Winston-Salem police don’t want to meet people for the first time while they’re in their neighborhoods investigating a crime. That’s why last year, they started a new program of community policing, where they visit neighborhoods in all three police districts within the city, five days a week.

“It’s just making that contact to let them know we’re not the bad guys,” said Sgt. Michael Knight. “When we first started this program, it was a lot of surprise.”

But, in the months following, they’ve started to make strides; and some new friends.

“The best thing to do is to get to know them,” said Marva Reid, president of the East/Northeast Winston Neighborhood Association. “They’re just doing their job.”

Reid lives in the area of Cameron Avenue, where officers visited on Wednesday.

“They seem to open themselves up for you to ask questions,” Reid said, of the officers. “It’s a breaking the ice kind of situation.”

The officers visit some of the neighborhoods where they’ve seen crime trends within the city, Wednesday through Sunday, each week. On Wednesday, they stayed out in the cold from two in the afternoon until eight at night.

“Most of them appreciate it and they feel safer,” Reid said, of the people in her neighborhood. “Of course, if you have the criminal element, they’re not comfortable with the police department, that’s a given. But, as a whole, the community enjoys seeing them.”

For the police, it’s a way to check in with people and lean about their problems, while preventing problems in the future.

“We need them over here in this area,” Reid said.

If braving the cold on a Wednesday evening isn’t proof enough of their care for the communities they serve, keep this in mind: these officers do all of this work while they’re off-duty.