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Greensboro police reaching out to community in new ways

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- When you step into the third floor community room at Greensboro police headquarters, it's clear the department is changing the way it reaches out to neighbors.

"It was designed specifically to have a soft approach," Deputy Chief J.T. Cranford said. "Less police and more of how you would think your own living room would look."

Even though you are at police headquarters, the contemporary furniture, soft lighting and a great view of downtown Greensboro puts you at ease. Cranford believes a welcoming space relaxes people and gives them the ability to talk to police about their concerns and ideas. Cranford adds the new building puts most departments under the same roof. So people will no longer have to search the city to find what they are looking for.

"When we had part of our services across the street and a part over here, for citizens it was, 'Where do I go to get police services ?'" Cranford said. "They were being misdirected or thinking it was in one building, but it was in another."

Greensboro police is also rolling out a new mobile command center. It's packed with the latest technology and gives partner agencies like fire and emergency management more room to work.

"Now we can give them their own work section and we are still under one roof," Chief Wayne Scott said. "It's a matter of us doing our jobs more efficiently and it's better for our public."

The mobile command center also has a small kitchen and bathroom. In the back, an area normally used for storage is now a multipurpose room. It can be used for meetings, crime scene interviews or as a quiet place.

"We can also bring in, if we are on a crime scene where you have victims, we can have a place of privacy and come in and give them a moment alone out of everything else without interfering with our operations," Scott said.

The new command vehicle didn't cost the city anything. The Greensboro Police Foundation raised the necessary $120,000.

"We've had good success with raising money in our community to support the Greensboro Police Department," Foundation Vice Chairman Marc Isaacson said. "We were pleasantly surprised at the outcome of our fundraising efforts for this project."

The original 1998 mobile command post will be turned over to the Greensboro Fire Department. Officer George Smith used to drive the '98 mobile command vehicle. So will he have a hard time getting adjusting to his new command center?

"We are not missing the old one that much," Smith said. "It's like going from a Chevy to a Mercedes. Are you going to miss the Chevy?"

You can check out the new mobile command center and downtown Greensboro police headquarters on Thursday, Sept. 28. The open house begins at 3 p.m. and ends at 7 p.m.