LLPD's community policing at work

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Whether it's helping residents form a neighborhood watch, connecting with business owners or educating local children about stranger danger, the Los Lunas Police Department's community policing program works on forming ongoing, substantial relationships.

Officers Buster Whitley and Jeremy Shaw head up the community policing program and feel what they do every day not only helps the department, but the residents and businesses as well.

"The bottom line is to build a better relationship," said Whitley. "There's a lot of byproducts that come from that, but the main goal is building a connection."

"The community will trust you a little more and they're willing to work more with you," said Shaw about the importance of building a strong community policing program. "You're making an actual difference rather than just handing out tickets or fighting crime. We want and need to know our residents and business people."

Whitley said the concept of community policing began in the early 1990s in Houston, Texas, with a goal to draw and create a different perspective of police and policing from the community. The idea worked so well, it spread throughout the country, and many law enforcement agencies have implemented similar programs.

One of the first programs Whitley and Shaw worked on is the "Lock Your Doors, Take Your Keys" initiative, where officers would place a card with the friendly reminder on cars. When officers would notice a vehicle parked with its windows rolled down, or in an area where several auto burglaries have been reported, they would put the card under the windshield wiper to serve as a deterrent as well as educating the owner of the car.

The officers have recently introduced a new way for business owners to partner with their local police department with a business check card and decal. The decals are placed on the front window of each business that has partnered with the police department, letting customers and potential criminals know of the relationship between the business and police.

The business check cards are left by officers at Los Lunas businesses after hours to let the owners know that they're property was checked.

"It's just to let them know that we were there," Whitley said. "It's just a reminder to let them know that we're still looking out for their property and business after hours. There's a lot of different reasons and ways we can utilize these cards, and there's a spot allotted on the back of these cards so we can leave a brief message or comments."

Shaw said every officer in the village has been given business check cards. He said when the business is open, the officers will go in, introduce themselves and build a personal connection with employees.

"We are on a first-name basis with them," he said. "The good thing about living in a small town is you know everyone here."

Whitley said the reaction of the program from business owners has been great, with many complementing the officers for making sure their properties are safe and knowing that they have a partnership with the police department.

Community policing, the officers say, is a daily duty for Los Lunas police officers. It's something they take to heart because they know they're building personal connections with residents.

"Personally, I like to see the community get involved," Shaw said. "The citizens are willing to help you more, and the kids look up to us rather than being afraid of us. It's about being able to build friendships and people are willing to look out for each other. They all want the same thing, and even though Los Lunas has grown, we all want to keep that small-town feel."


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.