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Officer helps build community

Jacob DeRochie/contributing photographer

City Community-Oriented Police Officer Jesse Abbott, who is completing his first year in the new position, patrols Monday on Main Street. Abbott has been praised for improving safety and building relations between police and the community.

Jesse Abbott sat in his office Monday morning, picked up the large yellow envelope sitting in front of him and with the aid of a pocket knife, cut the edge and pulled out a stack of paper.

The papers were thank you notes and drawings of Abbott, a kid in a hat or both. They came from elementary students who received hats from Abbott and the Silver Needles Machine Knitting Club.

That’s what a community-oriented police officer does in his first year.

It was a good year, Abbott said. He’s thankful for the opportunity to do more outreach. Especially with the younger crowd. The position is a good way to teach them that police are just people like everyone else.

He also wants kids to feel they can approach police if there is ever a problem and talk. “Kids aren’t born with hatred, they learn it from others,” he said.

Abbott started in the position in January. The four-year position was created with a $125,000 grant from the federal Department of Justice to prevent crime and to build trust in police.

“He puts out a great face for the department,” said Cortland Police Chief F. Michael Catalano.

Since January, Abbott has:

• Started a bike registration program in the spring. The program allows police to cross reference a registration number on a bike with a person to easily return the bike. About 30 people have registered their bikes, he said.

• Organized a Klondike Gold Hunt in Suggett Park, helping 200 kids have fun.

• Played host to Coffee with a Cop on several Saturdays, creating an event where residents could just sit and talk with police.

• Organized an Emergency Services Appreciation Day in September. A dozen emergency services organizations were present, including the Cortland and Homer police departments, the fire departments of Homer, Cortland and Cortlandville, the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office, SUNY Cortland police, state forest rangers and emergency medical services.

Abbott said he has plans to continue all four programs.

Catalano said he has gotten tons of feedback on Abbott. “They’re appreciative of the position,” he said.

During his year downtown, Abbott has gotten to know many different people, from business owners to the kids and teens at the city Youth Bureau.

For the first six months, Abbott went to the Youth Bureau daily. His schedule intervenes, but he still stops by when he can. “The kids welcomed me in like a staff member,” Abbott said.

John McNerney, director of the city Youth Bureau, said it’s been good working with Abbott. “Jesse has been a huge asset to the Youth Bureau through programming and working with kids,” he said.

One thing Abbott loves about the job is, when strangers approach to thank him for his work. He would change only one thing: He’d like to add another officer. “It would be ideal for another position,” he said.

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