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Police launch map to connect neighborhoods with police officers

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The Salisbury Police Department says its interactive neighborhood officer locator map launched last week is another tool to put residents in closer touch with the officers who patrol their neighborhood.

“It will allow residents to share concerns, complaints or incidents in their neighborhood directly with the officers who patrol the specific area and also reduce repetitive non-emergency calls for service,” said Police Chief Jerry Stokes.

Deputy Chief Shon Barnes said the map was two months in the making and is part of his 2019 priority list that emphasizes zone accountability.

“People living in the neighborhood should know who represents them,” Barnes said.

Barnes said it was difficult at the beginning of the year to launch the program because the department wasn’t fully staffed. Now that officers are in permanent assignments, they can take ownership of their beats.

To make the map possible, Barnes said he spoke out to Capt. Brian Stallings, who connected him to Levi Coldiron, manager of the city’s Geographic Information Systems Division. Coldiron created a database that lists the officer and supervisor for each shift and zone.

The application, available at salisburync.gov/officermap, has on its landing page instructions on how to use the site. The landing page also shows the six zones or beats across the city. Users can zoom in on the map and locate their neighborhoods or search for their addresses at the top right to find the officer and supervisor. Email addresses for the Police Department’s victim advocate and community service officer are also listed on the site.

Coldiron said other municipalities have similar programs, including web applications that can let voters see who represents their jurisdiction.

Barnes said the email address to reach officers can be used to ask the officer to speak at a neighborhood gathering or help residents connect with the victim advocate.

Barnes said one thing that has concerned him throughout his career is making sure victims of domestic violence have every means possible to contact authorities.

The map does not replace 911, but it is a way for the public to connect with officers. If someone is going on vacation, he may want police to drive through the neighborhood to check on his property. In addition, Barnes said, residents who want to encourage police officers can send them a direct email.

He recalled a Fulton Heights resident who is a widow and bakes but has no one to bake for. She told him that she would love to send an email to the officer who patrols her area to say, “Hey, I have brownies; stop by.”

The officer map was launched Tuesday during National Night Out.

Stokes said the program will help connect officers with those they serve.

“As a community policing-focused department, we seek to have our police officers focus their time to their assigned geographic area and working to gather information and points of view about neighborhood issues and needs,” Stokes said. “We encourage residents to contact officers and assist us with establishing meaningful, authentic connections between police officers and our neighbors.”

Barnes said the next phase is to overlay information onto the map that details incidents such as larcenies in a neighborhood.

Coldiron said the next phase will provide the same interactive map on a mobile app similar to the city’s Salisbury311 app. The map could potentially auto-generate an email and send messages to the appropriate department. An officer would then notify the resident that the issue has been taken care of or is being investigated.

To access the map or for more information about how the Neighborhood Officer Map works, visit salisburync.gov/OfficerMap.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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