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Lockport police adding a human touch

Police find new ways to meet with public

Published: Monday, June 9, 2014 10:33 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)
Chief Terry Lemming bumps his fist with Marco Longo, 5, as Marco and his brother toured the Lockport Police Department on Wednesday.

LOCKPORT – As the Lockport Police Department tries to better engage the community, it recently offered two young visitors a look behind the scenes.

Brothers Dominic Longo and Marco Longo were given a full tour of the station last week by officers Kevin Brauch and Marty Hamilton. The tour was an add-in after their mother, Molly, won for them a ride to school in a police car last month in a fundraiser for St. Dennis School.

Hamilton started the tour with the memorial at the front door that serves as a reminder of the dangers of police work, but the mood lightened with the nearby red telephone that can summon officers after business hours.

“It is officially called the Bat phone by everyone working here,” Hamilton told the boys, who know their superheroes.

But police officers are human beings, and the boys were soon comparing sports injuries with Officer Stephen Boe, who was working in the front office on light duty. After greeting Chief Terry Lemming with “fist bumps,” the boys were taken into the staff kitchen, workout area, motor pool and armory where they got to play with a riot shield.

Molly Longo watched proudly as her sons wanted to spend more time behind bars in the holding cell.

“I think this gives them a good perspective on what the police do. I’m glad they’re not just seeing [officers] when something happens,” she said.

Officers also will spend time with kids when they lead a summer reading program at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the library and bring a vehicle to the Touch-A-Truck event 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday at Dellwood Park.

On the other side of police work, Brauch and Hamilton also are meeting with community groups for “Stranger-Danger” talks with kids and scam awareness for adults.

“There’s a definite increase in rip-offs once the weather gets warmer and more [con artists] will go door-to-door,” Brauch said, adding that police take a report of some in-person, phone or online scam at least once a week.

Brauch said while all ages can fall victim to scammers, the elderly frequently are targeted. One Lockport senior recently lost $60,000 to “claiming prizes” in contests relatives said she hadn’t entered.

Brauch and Hamilton will offer the free presentation, which lasts about an hour, to any interested group. Presentations can be arranged by calling Brauch at 815-838-2132.

An informal setting to approach officers with concerns or questions is “Coffee With The Cops.” Lockport police held the first meeting last month at the Gladys Fox Museum and are scheduled to host another from 8 to 10 a.m. June 23 at NuVibe, 16105 S. Farrell Road.

“It’s just another chance for us to talk with residents about what we’re doing and hear about any issues they have,” Brauch said.

Fred Hayes, Elwood police chief and adjunct instructor at Lewis University, said studies show community outreach reduces both crime and the fear of crime in a community.

“When people can get to trust their police department by getting to know the officers the flow of communication improves,” Hayes said. “People who wouldn’t normally call the police or think it’s necessary that they do now have more trust and are more likely to reach out.”

Brauch said the department has already used feedback from the first coffee meeting.

“It was brought to our attention there have been a lot of [pedestrians] ignoring the gates and crossing the tracks at 13th and State streets,” Brauch said.

“We didn’t know this was an issue, but officers have now been watching to see if this is an issue and we’re showing more of a presence there to make sure everyone is safe,” he said.

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