'That's why we're here."
Macungie Police Officer Todd Bernhard does not see himself as a community police officer, emphasis added, a title he holds with the police department.
To Bernhard, every officer on patrol or otherwise in the field is a community police officer because every officer interacts with borough residents.
A school visit, a phone call to the station, even a traffic stop puts an officer in touch with those who live in Macungie. And every encounter is an opportunity. For example, Bernhard and other Macungie officers visit grade schools to talk with students.
"Younger children are a little reluctant to talk to us," Bernhard said, until the kids realize police officers are friendly people, he continues.
Bernhard does take a special interest, however, in finding ways to reach residents through 20th-century tactics like pamphlets on topics such as bicycle safety and 21st century technological strategies such as email lists and mobile message platforms like Nixle.
Macungie Police started a Nixle account in September, Sept. 5 to be exact, when the department's first message went out.
"And it went to one person...me," Bernhard said with a smile.
According to its website literature, Nixle allows police and other government agencies to send secure messages directly to mobile devices or email accounts. Messages are instantly delivered. The messages can be targeted geographically and by interest.
In recent messages, Macungie's Nixle users learned about a lost dog, a power outage, tips for Halloween safety, the participation of the Macungie police in the national prescription drug collection day and a railroad crossing closed for repairs.
Bernhard also maintains a crime watch email list. Subscribers include business owners and interested residents and topics covered may include alerts about acts of criminal mischief plaguing a specific neighborhood.
The email list grew out of neighborhood crime watch meetings and the meetings grew out of questions from residents about crimes such as money scams, identity theft and concerns about using social networking sites. Bernhard would research a topic, prepare talking points and materials and speak to groups of concerned borough residents. Those talks morphed into pamphlets and other handouts as a permanent record of what was discussed. Bernhard produced his first pamphlet as a class assignment for a police seminar.
The definition of community policing is malleable. Researcher Gary Cordner described community policing as "many things to many people" in an article for the publication Police Forum. Fans of the HBO television series "The Wire" may recall a scene of a neighborhood forum where a woman interrupts a monotonous speech by an assistant police chief on crime statistics, his definition of community policing. She describes as productive her encounter with an officer who saw her outside her home, stopped and introduced himself and gave her his card with an invitation to get in touch about any neighborhood concerns.
Bernhard's definition appears to be in sync with the latter.
As part of upcoming community efforts, Bernhard hopes to revive flashlight walks with borough residents. For such walks, a Macungie officer guides walkers on a tour of a their own neighborhood, highlighting safety hazards and offering tips such as the importance of wearing swatches of reflective tape when walking at dusk or after dark and potential weapons of self-defense such as a compact metal flashlight or loose mulch or landscape rocks in a neighbor's yard to use in fighting off an attack.
Among the best tools in crime watch efforts, Bernhard stresses, is a prompt call to Macungie police when something suspicious, dangerous or otherwise unsettling happens. For example, if someone is doing donuts in a car on a cul-de-sac, call the police when the activity is happening, Bernhard advises, not hours or days later. Prompt action when problems start can result in a quicker resolution to a potentially bad situation. Borough residents often are reluctant to call police because they feel police have more important things to do, Bernhard said.
"The bottom line is the residents are not going to bother us. That's why we're here."
And Bernhard is optimistic he will be in Macungie for some time to come. Bernhard joined the Macungie Police Department 10 years ago.
"I have a feeling I'll be here another 10. I like it here. I do," he said.
"Overall, it is a great community," Bernhard continued. "I believe our residents appreciate the service we provide."