Police here decided they weren’t done spreading Christmas cheer after their annual Shop With a Cop event passed Dec. 10.
The Dollar General stores on Zebulon Road and West Gannon Avenue provided the means to keep a good thing going.
Officers were given 82 toys from holiday drives at the two stores. They took the gifts with them on their shifts the week leading up to Christmas Day. When they spotted children on their best behavior, the officers recognized that by rewarding them with a gift.
“If they see a child who is doing something exemplary – it could be a child practicing safe bicycling or holding a door open for an elderly person, it could be a number of things the officer witnesses – the officer will go up to them and let them know what they did to earn a reward and then give them a gift,” said police Chief Tim Hayworth.
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Officers also had the gifts handy in case of less fortunate instances, to use as a comforting tool on calls like domestic violence.
“Any case where the child is going through some sort of trauma, to where the officer can ease the child’s mind by stopping and talking to the child, (this) mitigates the tragedy by giving the child a Christmas presents,” Hayworth said.
Lt. Ashley Dixon, who helped coordinate the gift operation, said most of the interactions were for positive experiences and not traumatic events.
“It’s pretty rare, but it happens,” Dixon said.
Regardless of what prompted them, the encounters were designed to help children have a good Christmas and to give them opportunities for positive interactions with police.
“It’s to let them know police officers aren’t only here to write a ticket or make an arrest, but that we’re out there to serve the community,” Hayworth said. “It could impact that child for years and years to come, probably more than we will ever know. I think it’s really important that children see police officers as a friend.”
Dixon also viewed the opportunity as a way to thank the community, which she said has been very encouraging for local police during trying times for all law enforcement over the past year or so.
“We wanted to do something to give something back,” Dixon said. “It’s been phenomenal, the support we’ve gotten from the community. And really, the community provided these gifts for us to use to give back to the community, so realistically they’re a part of this, too.”
Satisfaction for all
Four-year-old Jordan Tracy was feeling a little under the weather Tuesday, so he bypassed school and instead went to work with his aunt at Red Star Oil Company in Zebulon.
The day for Jordan, who thinks cops are cool, took a turn for the better after Officer Jeremy Pulley presented him with a set of Matchbox cars for demonstrating politeness.
“It totally made his day,” said Amanda Weathersbee, Jordan’s mom. “He was telling everybody about it when he went back to school. I thought it was pretty awesome (police) were going around doing that. It definitely put a smile on his face, and that made me happy.”
Handing out several gifts early in the week left Det. Sgt Edwin Killette wishing he could play the part of Santa Claus on a more regular basis.
He couldn’t believe how one girl reacted when given a Barbie doll as she and her family were leaving a local store.
“Who wouldn’t find it satisfying to have a little girl scream in excitement because you gave her a Christmas present?” Killette asked. “It’s nice to go out and see children and parents really excited to get presents.
“I guess with the current stance on law enforcement nationwide, we’re getting a lot of support back where we had kind of lost it for a while. This just brightens their day and is a really nice thing. It helps our citizens trust and get to know us.”