The San Luis Obispo Police Department has launched a new program intended to reduce crime in neighborhoods and increase communication with residents.
The Neighborhood Officer program assigns specific patrol officers to 13 designated neighborhoods spanning the city.
Residents can now find their assigned officer on the Police Department’s website. Photos, direct phone numbers and email addresses are listed for all of the officers involved in the program.
Police Chief Steve Gesell said the program was created because he felt the Police Department needed to better connect with the community.
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The department’s 26 patrol officers will continue to do citywide patrols but will be available to residents in their assigned neighborhoods. No additional staffing was added to create the program. There are 57 sworn officers on the police force, including the patrol division.
The officers will act as a liaison between the community and the Police Department and be expected to identify neighborhood issues and seek solutions.
“This program is about providing better service, derived by improved relationships,” Gesell said. “It offers citizens the option of getting to know the officer responsible for their neighborhood area. Before this program, if a resident needed a cop, they would call the non-emergency line or 911.”
The hope is that having an officer knowledgeable about trouble spots or repeated problems in an area can lead to better methods for cutting crime, he said. Getting neighbors to talk to each other also can help foster a safer neighborhood.
Officer Eric Lincoln, who is assigned to an area near Laguna Lake at the southern end of the city, has already attended two meetings with residents in his neighborhood. Some were concerned about a recent rash of burglaries, others were worried about a neighbor’s mental health.
“People are concerned about what to do, and we can help by telling them what police can and can’t do and how to seek help,” Lincoln said. “The program adds accountability.”
Gesell said that despite San Luis Obispo being a relatively safe town, property crimes such as burglaries are on an upward trend that needs additional focus.
The new program will help officers better understand the bigger picture of what is happening in specific areas of the city.
“Our job is far beyond just hunting down the bad guys,” said Lincoln.
“Many times the solution is beyond what law enforcement can do,” Gesell said. “But we can also bring other resources to bear either through the city, county, social services or simply by bringing neighbors together.”