A city police officer began walking a regular beat Monday, primarily in downtown Cortland, interacting with Main Street business owners and customers.
The four-year community policing position filled by Officer Jesse Abbott was created with a $125,000 Community Oriented Policing Services grant.
The idea is to increase communications and partnership to prevent crime and disorder, and to build trust in police.
“My 17-year career style with the police has been interacting with the community,” Abbott said.
Abbott said the position will give him the chance to strengthen and build new relationships in the community.
“The position does not only cover downtown,” Abbott said.
Abbott will also work in other parts of the city, he said. He is attending city Common Council meetings — starting with the past two — and ward meetings with aldermen.
“It’s one of those things that’s good to have outreach between the police and the community,” said Alderman William Carpenter (D-5th Ward), a former police officer. “This gives the ward a way to relay information back to the police on areas to keep an eye on.”
Abbott has been updating emergency contacts with businesses, he said. “If something was to happen overnight, we might not have had contact information.”
He has other plans, too, such as creating a Coffee with a Cop day, revamping the McGruff Crime Dog program and creating a website. He also plans to create a bike registration program.
The Common Council can decide whether to continue the position after the four-year grant, which the city’s police department applied for in August. It was awarded in October.
Chief F. Michael Catalano said he hopes having an officer visible in the community creates a better relationship. Others agree.
“It can only bring a positive outcome,” said Sam Braine, owner of Long Island Bagel on Main Street.
Braine said the new officer might also promote a sense of security downtown. “It could create a better feeling of safety for students and people who live here, like myself.”
The grant allowed the city to hire Officer Trevor Wenz, a Cortland native, to take Abbott’s place. He started Monday.
“Growing up and living here, you get to know the streets, the businesses and their business owners,” he said.
The Cortland native graduated in 2010 from Le Moyne College in Syracuse.
Wenz said he returned to Cortland where he worked for UPS before taking a position in 2012 at the Alexandria City Police in Alexandria, Virginia.
He returned to Cortland in 2013 for personal reasons and put himself through phase one of police training at Onondaga Community College and graduated in May, he said.
He dropped off his resume to city police. “Just before Thanksgiving I received a call,” Wenz said. His duties through February consist of firearm training, active shooter training and defense tactics.