Last month this reporter was sitting in the Secaucus Rail Station with two others when two men walking by the waiting room knocked on the glass window to the three people sitting inside. One pointed to a lonely package near one of the seats. They opened the door and asked about it. A train passenger had left it, so one said, “If we see something, say something.”
Port Jervis hopes residents will take charge of their city in similar fashion with a citizen awareness campaign called Be Part of the Solution: If You See Something, Say Something.
According to Chief William Worden, the campaign was initiated by the police department in May. “It seemed like a very positive police-community collaboration.”
After one of his officers researched a similar campaign in Scranton, Penn., Worden met with Mayor Kelly Decker to build on the department’s mission of working in a strong partnership with the community. The mayor liked the idea and announced it in his State of the City address.
Worden sees his job as one of service. “I believe it’s important that residents take ownership of the community. We are their police officers and we serve the residents of our community.”
Worden encourages his officers to get out of their patrol cars and meet residents. “It removes that barrier and allows them to talk about the problems in their neighborhoods,” he said.
The department also deploys bicycle patrols throughout the city. These have proven to be very popular, especially with the younger set.
A Growing Trend
Other groups have found the campaign an effective way to involve people in issues that affect them. New Jersey Transit has promoted the effort on posters on its rail cars.
The University of New Hampshire’s “Be Part of the Solution” White Ribbon Campaign in 2013 was inspired by a sexual harassment and rape prevention program in 2013. UNH men took a personal pledge to “never commit, condone, nor remain silent about violence against women. The campaign got more than 1,000 men to take the pledge.
The Port’s police department was inspired by the Scranton Police department which enacted the campaign in 2011. The campaign made clear that police, the courts, and prisons are only part of the solution.
The community has an important role in reducing crime. In an open letter, Scranton’s Superintendent of Police Chief Daniel Duffy wanted residents to know that “persons who engage in or are about to engage in criminal activity will decide to conduct their illegal conduct elsewhere, somewhere other than the City of Scranton.
The be-part-of-the-solution movement began in 2010 when John Walsh from the popular TV show America’s Most Wanted and others started spreading the message.
Port Jervis aims to involve every level of the community including businesses, non-profits, churches, and schools. Residents and businesses are encouraged to put a poster in a window. City police, the local government, and recreation and public works departments will partner with the community.
Worden says it takes a positive, proactive approach. “This campaign helps enhance what we’re doing to continue to build partnerships.”