Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 13, 2013

Fighting crime — Foot patrols helpful for cities

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— When it comes to keeping neighborhoods safe, a visible police presence can go a long ways toward deterring would-be criminals. That’s why the new foot patrols in both Bluefield and Princeton are welcomed.

Officers with the Princeton Police Department have been pounding the pavement since May. The foot patrols in Princeton have been focused on the Mercer Street area. Acting Princeton Police Chief J.W. Howell hopes the presence of the officers will help area business owners while also cutting down on prostitution and public intoxication.

While foot patrols on Mercer Street were a common sight in past years, the practice had been curtailed in recent summers due to manpower shortages. But the Princeton Police Department is now back up to full strength, and able to resume the foot patrols, according to Howell.

The city of Bluefield is planning to begin its foot patrols Aug. 2, Bluefield City Manager Jim Ferguson announced during a meeting of the city Board of Directors last week.

Bluefield Police Chief D.M. Dillow is planning to have foot patrols in both the downtown and South Bluefield areas. Dillow has been working on the foot patrol plan since becoming chief of police earlier this year. He says the patrols would be mostly during the summer months and during the day.

Some officers are now undergoing training in Bluefield. One parking enforcement officer will patrol on foot in the downtown area along with a regular police officer.

“Hopefully this will help eliminate the perception that downtown is not safe,” Dillow said after last week’s meeting of the Bluefield Board of Directors.

In September, the officer on foot patrol will rotate to school duty in Bluefield, and go on foot patrol when available. Mercer County schools open Aug. 15, but foot patrols will continue into September, or until the weather begins to change, according to Dillow.

The foot patrols are important, and welcomed in both cities.

Property owners, and business owners, should feel safer with an increased police presence that includes foot patrols. Having an officer walking on foot in your community provides an added sense of security. The visible police presence also is a tremendous deterrent to crime. The foot patrols also provide opportunities for interactions between the officers and citizens. And that’s a good thing. Citizens should be able to see — and talk — to the officers who are patrolling their communities.

It is our hope that foot patrols — and perhaps even bike patrols in the future — can continue in both cities.