Greensboro police focus more time on neighborhood safety

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Miltrine Jenkins doesn’t think there’s anything difficult about contacting police in her neighborhood near Benbow Park on the south end of Greensboro; when her community needs help she calls for it.

She knows others across the city don’t feel it’s that simple to talk to police without feeling ignored.

“A lot of it is warranted,” said Jenkins. “A lot of it is because of the way things have been and the way they have been treated but you have to get a different perspective on things; you have to look at it differently.”

The Greensboro Police Department is trying a different approach to gain trust in the community. Phase two of its new neighborhood oriented policing program is just beginning. One goal is to put more patrol officers on the street than necessary to give those officers more time to make connections.

“If you normally answer 15 calls per day and you've got more officers on your squad you might not answer but 10 calls a day,” said M.A. Overman, an officer with the Greensboro Police Department. "You'll be able to get out and interact with the community more."

Overman said the lighter call load will also allow him and other officers to spend more time on each call, leading to a greater chance of solving the problem that initiated the call in the first place. For instance, if someone reports suspicious activity in a neighborhood an officer can devote more time tracking down the people responsible rather than moving onto the next call.

“If you've got to jump to the next call then you know that problem is still there you'll get another call, you'll get dispatched again because someone else has called,” said Overman.

Overman also devotes some of his downtime to adding warning signs to an area where police have seen a spike in car break-ins and chatting with neighborhood contacts like Jenkins.

“They know our concerns and they put certain things on their radar that the neighbors are concerned about and they help get these problems alleviated,” said Jenkins.

Overman said some of the neighborhood concerns he’s heard about this summer include burglaries at schools and, more recently, church burglaries and vandalism. He said keeping people like Jenkins a phone call away helps address those community concerns quickly.

Police Chief Wayne Scott said another part of phase two of neighborhood oriented policing includes starting a street crimes division sometime in November. He said thefts and break-ins are crimes that can be tied to gang activity and take a toll on the community.

Scott said it wouldn’t be possible without first identifying the areas that need more community involvement and making those connections.

“We're always positively received when we take the time to be out there among our community so we've already started to see some of that impact,” said Scott.

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