Wilton Police tried out a new community policing program yesterday (Monday, Sept. 26), putting officers on one of the newest, largest, and most popular public assets the town has–the Norwalk River Valley Trail. Whether it was walking a few tenths of a mile with residents using the trail, handing out pamphlets about trail safety or explaining to trail walkers with dogs off leashes why their dogs had to be leashed, the officers had a a variety of positive encounters during the four hours (two hrs. in a.m., two in the p.m.) they spent on the trail.
“Today’s Stroll with Patrol was a great success. The residents’ responses were great,” says Lt. Rob Cipolla, who oversaw the initiative.
At first, walkers on the trail were worried by the police presence. “Initially, you get that, ‘Is everything all right?’ question, but when we explain to them that we are just out on the trail looking to connect with our community, they think it is a great idea. Personally, I was able to connect with over a dozen residents throughout the day, but that was just me and we had six (6) other officers out on the trail throughout the course of the day,” Cipolla adds
Stroll with Patrol is the second community relationship-building initiative the department is testing this year. It follows on the successful heels of the Coffee with a Cop program. Cipolla says because these efforts are proactive and positive non-enforcement activities, it helps to promote public trust.
“It gives the community an opportunity to engage with our officers beyond the typical ‘license and registration’ conversation. It is an opportunity for our community and officers to interact with one another on a more causal level, which helps to build those positive relationships. When those strong relationships are formed we can then work together to identify the problems in our community and more importantly collaborate in identifying the solutions,” Cipolla says.
It’s working in both directions, Cipolla adds:
“We have received very supportive feedback from the Wilton community and our officers have really enjoyed it as well.”