Com­mu­nity polic­ing cen­ter opens

Newark Post - - Front Page - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

A pre­vi­ously va­cant Main Street store­front was bustling Satur­day as Ne­wark res­i­dents min­gled with police of­fi­cers, and kids scram­bled to col­lect trad­ing cards from the cops.

Three months in the mak­ing, the Ne­wark Police Depart­ment’s new com­mu­nity polic­ing cen­ter opened Satur­day at 134 E. Main St., a space last oc­cu­pied by SAS Cup­cakes.

“The point is to have the cen­ter be­come a place the com­mu­nity can come in to talk with police,” Mas­ter Cpl. Jay Conover said. “The Ne­wark com­mu­nity and police have al­ways had a good re­la­tion­ship, but this can only im­prove it.”

Mod­eled af­ter a sim­i­lar con­cept in Mys­tic, Conn., the com­mu­nity polic­ing cen­ter is a part­ner­ship be­tween NPD and de­vel­oper Ge­orge Dan­ne­man, who owns the build­ing. Dan­ne­man is al­low­ing the police depart­ment to use the space rent- free un­til the end of the year. At that point, city of­fi­cials will eval­u­ate whether to bud­get funds to con­tinue us­ing the space.

The cen­ter con­tains a large con­fer­ence ta­ble for meet­ings, and the walls are dec­o­rated with pho­tos and mem­o­ra­bilia from through­out NPD’s 150- year his­tory. Con­tain­ers near the door con­tain col­or­ing books, crayons and stick­ers for young visi­tors, and blue lights in the win­dow sig­nal when the fa­cil­ity is open.

The site is in­tended pri­mar­ily to be a place for the com­mu­nity to in­ter­act with police of­fi­cers dur­ing events like “Cof­fee with a Cop.” How­ever, it also gives NPD a home in the heart of down­town, and Conover said he ex­pects some peo­ple to come in to re­port crimes or ask ques­tions. But, be­cause the cen­ter won’t be con­tin­u­ously manned, any­one need­ing emer­gency as­sis­tance should call 911.

The depart­ment hasn’t worked out an ex­act sched­ule, but of­fi­cers will be in the cen­ter as of­ten as they can. It will be pri­mar­ily staffed by the spe­cial op­er­a­tions unit, a com­mu­nity polic­ing unit that has the flex­i­bil­ity to ad­dress spe­cific crime and dis­or­der prob­lems as they arise and of­ten deals with Main Street bars and other is­sues down­town.

“We’re try­ing to make the police ap­proach­able,” said Lt. Den­nis Ani­u­nas, who brought the idea to police lead­er­ship and city coun­cil. “I think that’s the prob­lem with so­ci­ety today is peo­ple look at this uni­form and they make a judg­ment for bet­ter or for worse.”

The cen­ter opened just in time to co­in­cide with NPD’s trad­ing card pro­gram, which in­vites kids to col­lect all 100 cards fea­tur­ing NPD of­fi­cers and spe­cial­ized units in or­der to win prizes do­nated by lo­cal busi­nesses, in­clud­ing a trip to Dis­ney World.

On Satur­day, a steady stream of kids walked into the com­mu­nity polic­ing cen­ter to col­lect cards from Conover, Mas­ter Cpl. Mor­gan Foun­tain and Sgt. Greg Mi­colucci, as well as NPD civil­ian dis­patch­ers.

Conover’s gre­gar­i­ous per­son- al­ity suited him well as he greeted kids, asked them about their school­ing and au­to­graphed his trad­ing card, which de­picts him play­fully ar­rest­ing Star Wars char­ac­ters.

Tak­ing a break dur­ing a lull in the ac­tion, he noted that kids were lined up ea­gerly for trad­ing cards while he and other of­fi­cers were still set­ting up for the event.

“This brings us all to­gether,” he said.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Mas­ter Cpl. Jay Conover hands out trad­ing cards to Bella and Alexan­der Wil­liams, ages 9 and 7, at the new com­mu­nity polic­ing cen­ter on Main Street.

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