Nationwide, it’s called “Coffee with a Cop,” and locally SPPD Acting Police Chief Brian Solinsky said his department enjoyed the opportunity to answer questions from the public one night this week at Starbucks in the 400 block of Fair Oaks Avenue.
“It’s just a great way to talk to the community one-on-one,” said Solinsky. “We get to know our residents on a first name basis and they get to know the officers that patrol their community.”
For the approximate eight officers and two dozen locals stopping by at the coffee chain, it was all about creating a welcoming atmosphere and building a sense of community with a jolt of caffeine thrown into the mix.
“Normally when there’s interaction with law enforcement it’s of the serious nature,” explained Solinsky. “There’s a crime that has occurred, there’s an enforcement action and it really doesn’t give you the chance to get to know the individuals who we are here to serve and protect. And, vice versa, we don’t get to always know the citizens we come in contact with on a daily basis. So, Coffee with a Cop gives us that opportunity.”
While crime rate, speeding and other traffic concerns were raised by residents, Solinsky said the emphasis of the meet and greet was on getting to know those the police department looks after on a daily basis.
“We wanted to build that partnership with the community, break down barriers that exist and let people know us on a much more personal level,” he explained. “We really didn’t get into any policing issues. It was more about, ‘Tell me where you live. What is your neighborhood like.’ We had the usual questions about crimes of opportunity, where people left their car doors unlocked and thefts being made. Any time we have a high-density area with a lot of cars on the street, that’s where the thieves tend to go. When you leave something valuable out there, in plain sight, you’re just inviting trouble.”
The first Coffee with a Cop took place two years ago, launched by members of the Hawthorne Police Department as officers sought ways to interact with community members. Its success took off, and today the event is held throughout the country in all 50 states.
“We find it to be a valuable tool to connect with our residents,” said Solinky, noting his department ideally would like to hold it four times a year. “We think it’s important for our officers to meet with the people they serve and learn more about each other.”