DURHAM — Police officers are working the beat in downtownDurham. The department is adding eight patrol officers to make business owners and customers feel safer.
Restaurant owner Gene Devine welcomes the increased police presence.
"We've got a lot of police officers that come down and eat here at Devine's," Devine says. "I think in any additional situation for us, the more people we know in the security business, the better we all are."
The officers plan to meet with all of the business owners on their beat. The introductions started on Tuesday with business leaders relaying their concerns.
"It's absolutely critical as downtown really emerges over the next three to five years that we have well-trained officers ready to help people enjoy that downtown," says Bill Kalkhof of Downtown Durham Inc.
Durham is experiencing some of the growing pains that are typical to any busy city. Many of the business owners are worrying about the panhandlers who harass their customers.
The officers are trained to handle problems that are unique to downtown. Community policing is already successful in many neighborhoods in Durham. This is the first time it will be used in the business district.
"They are not going to be primary call takers, which means they will not be out monitoring their radios all of the time, waiting on a call to come in," says Maj. Steve Chalmers of theDurham Police Department. "They are going to be meeting with different merchants and try to get a better understanding of exactly what type of problems exist."
The new officers will focus on popular areas such as Ninth Street and Brightleaf Square. They will start patrolling on bike and on foot in April.