Photo by Elaine Rackley
Some of the residents on hand for the Riverdale Community Watch Groups meeting are pictured with city officials, Mayor Dr. Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, (center) Public Safety Director Samuel F. Patterson, (far right) and Police Major Greg Barney (far left.)
RIVERDALE — Hoping to build on a 20-percent reduction in crime since last year, the Riverdale Public Safety Department has relaunched its neighborhood watch program. Even the mayor, whose house was burglarized a year ago, lauded the idea.
Riverdale Public Safety Director and Police Chief Samuel Patterson and Lt. Nicole Rabel made presentations to city officials and residents on how the city is working to prevent crime, and how residents can help.
“You feel violated when someone breaks into your home,” Mayor Dr. Evelyn Wynn-Dixon said. “I know about victimization — that’s why this meeting was so important to me. When the police escalate what they are doing it is to help you.”
The program, renamed “Community Watches,” is aimed at helping residents make their communities less vulnerable to crime. Patterson put the department’s statistics into simple terms.
“That means for every five crimes that happened last year, one of them was eliminated this year,” said the police chief.
Wynn-Dixon urged residents to change their daily routines as they leave and return home. Police discovered the burglary suspect was the son of one of her neighbors.
According to the mayor, one of the ways the city is preventing crime is by creating jobs in Riverdale.
“Let’s go and bring in more jobs to get people off the streets,” Wynn-Dixon said. “Thursday, 30 people got jobs, that’s how you bridge the gap.”
Patterson added the city is implementing the Uniform Crime Reporting System to determine the most effective way to use the department’s resources.
“Using intelligence-led policing, crime analysis not only allows us to track criminal activity, but it also allows us to forecast where criminal activities will likely take place,” Patterson said. “Are we reducing crime or are we moving it? The reality is that we are moving it and our motivation is to move it out of Riverdale.”
The police chief said Riverdale has officers strategically posted in certain locations, working around the clock to prevent crime.
Some officers were assigned to bicycle patrol. The department is planning to experiment with “trikes,” battery-operated three-wheel vehicles. If they are prove beneficial, Patterson said some officers will be assigned trikes.
“We are going to get our officers out of patrol cars so they can be in touch with you,” he added. “We’re going to be at those places where people typically congregate. We are going to put our officers out there particularly mobilized during the holiday seasons.”
Patterson said the assignments served a dual purpose.
“It brings officers closer to the community,” he said. “It takes us out of our patrol cars to preserve fuel.”
The police chief answered questions from residents about how his department could help them and their businesses prevent crime.
Audrey Cole owns Riverdale Learning & Daycare Center, located at 6470 Church Street in Riverdale. Cole thanked the police chief and his officers publicly for their assistance. However, she said, she is concerned for the safety of her employees, when they are approached by panhandlers.
“We have a 24-hour daycare and at night [and] we have people knocking on our door, asking for food,” Cole said. “I mean it’s late night when they come by and we have children there. It would help us if you would have an officer to come back and sit outside the daycare.”
Cole told the city officials she is often harassed by the panhandlers hanging around the Exxon gas station at the intersection of King and Highway 85.
Patterson told her he would have an officer to patrol the daycare at night. He introduced Cole to one of his staff command, Major Barney, and asked that they talk following the meeting.
Patterson said all business owners with night deposits should call police for an escort before leaving their businesses.
Rabel introduced the audience a crime websites such as, crimereports.com and usa.watch.
“Usa.watch gives the formula on how to start a neighborhood watch or a business watch,” said Rabel. “We want everyone here to be part of a watch. We need you to call us if you see anything. We really want you to take ownership of your neighborhoods.”