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New thing for police is a step back


Dispatch/Argus Photo By Gary Krambeck

Moline police officer Joaquin Mendoza, second from right, walks with neighborhood residents Matthew Tapia, left, Nicole Tapia and Laura Blackwood, right, as they carry paint to cover gang graffiti in Moline last September.

The face of police work in the Quad-Cities is more familiar than ever.

Area police departments for the past several years have taken on a new-age approach to law enforcement, while resurrecting pieces of the profession's past. The foot patrol of the old days has become part of modern-day community policing.

With the help of federal grants and a local interest in bucking back at violence, nearly a dozen community policing substations have popped up on the Illinois side of the Quad-Cities.

Though most of the $1.2 million in federal grants was exhausted last year, local governments and the public sector have picked up the slack.

In Moline, what began as a two-officer effort to keep track of the city's higher-crime areas now has grown into a 10-officer effort to blanket the city with community-oriented policing.

Money from the federal government's anti-crime bill originally paid for six officers in Moline, but the grants expired in 1996. Still, the city has not cut back but has added to its community policing payroll.

While the city pays for the two officers who occupy the substation in the west end, part of the paychecks for the officers at the Springbrook Courts substation are paid by the Moline Housing Authority.

Part of the salary of the three officers working the community beat at SouthPark Mall are paid by the mall owners, and the salary for the liaison officer at Moline High School is paid in part by the board of education.

Moline now plans to add a middle school liaison, and is in the process of training an elderly services officer.

``Originally, we were looking at the areas with the most requests for police services,'' Moline Police Chief Steve Etheridge said. ``We targeted three areas -- Springbrook Courts, the west end and SouthPark Mall.''

A police presence in high-population or high-crime areas, the theory goes, would allow the public to interact more closely with police. As the community and the cops repeatedly come into contact with each other, crime falls.

As evidence that community policing philosophies stretch beyond the officers assigned to the programs, Rock Island Police officials credit a beat officer with the idea for an elderly services officer in their city.

``The elderly have different needs,'' Capt. John Wright said. ``One of our officers recognized the differences in our relationship with the elderly population and suggested the program.''

In addition to Rock Island's substation at Century Woods, the city is scouting for a new location for the office at Good Shepherd Mission. The housing authority in Rock Island also helps pay the salaries of officers working the two substations.

Capt. Wright said, while certain officers are assigned to the city's Community Assisted Police Enforcement, the entire police department is involved in community-oriented policing.

``It's not the old public-relations division,'' the captain said. ``The basic concept is a service-oriented approach for everyone.''

In East Moline, Officer Stacey Bollinger is the only officer assigned to community policing, but said the city is in the process of assigning another officer to the program.

Officer Bollinger said he has his hands full patroling the city's three substations at Blackhawk Hills, Deerfield Woods and Oak Grove housing complexes.

After six months on the community-policing beat, Officer Bollinger said he is confident the program works.

``I like what I do because it's important to me to help people,'' he said. ``We're trying to make these places better places for everyone to live, and I personally believe it's working.''

-- By Barb Ickes (February 2, 1998)

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