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Meetings help police combat neighborhood crime

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, June 1, 2013, at 9:35 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, June 2, 2013, at 6:36 a.m.

Wichita police late last month blocked off both ends of the 1700 block of North Piatt. A handful of officers from Patrol North walked house-to-house, knocking on doors and inviting residents out.

Officer Carl Lemons introduced himself as community policing officer, then explained that on May 19 someone got shot on their street.

“We’re here to get information and let you guys know what occurred,” Lemons said to the group assembled in a nearby church parking lot.

“Are you with a neighborhood watch?”

“We used to be,” a man replied. “But I don’t know if it’s active anymore.”

The gathering — known as an Impact meeting — is just one of the Wichita Police Department’s tactics to help combat neighborhood crime.

Lt. Doug Nolte said police first held the meetings in 2010.

They’re scheduled when a major crime or crime trend occurs in a neighborhood.

“The goal is to meet with people who are impacted specifically in that neighborhood with whatever crime has gone on,” Nolte said.

He estimated that each of the police department’s four bureaus holds between 20 and 50 annually.

“It’s been effective for us,” Nolte said.

Three adults and a few young children attended the North Piatt meeting on May 22.

Sometimes everyone on the block shows up, said Sgt. Travis Rakestraw, who helped draw out residents that day.

Other times, no one does.

But the face-to-face interaction facilitated when officers knock on doors generates later crime tips and also gives police a chance to “answer questions and be an ear” for residents, he said.

“It helps to build a relationship: Them (residents) with their community policing officer,” Rakestraw said.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter : @amyreneeleiker.

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