Community policing is one of the most widely touted law enforcement philosophies of our decade. Years ago the idea of community policing began to take shape with the realization that the police alone cannot effectively keep everyone in their jurisdiction safe all the time. We can’t possibly patrol every street, check every business, stop every speeding car, interview every suspicious person, chase every thief or drug dealer and search for every missing child, elderly person or individual who is mentally challenged…..all at the same time. So what is the answer? It is community policing, a partnership between the police and the citizens, working together to keep us all safe.
This past Monday, the Zebulon Police Department received a report of a missing child. This child was not believed to have been abducted, but was a runaway. This particular runaway was suffering from a number of physical and emotional issues which caused us great concern for his safety. After trying normal location methods of contacting friends and relatives and checking familiar areas, detectives made the decision to use the reverse 911 system. This system is rarely used, and almost never at 11 at night, however, officers were desperate to find the child and time was quickly passing. The reverse 911 system makes phone calls to homes within a specific geographical area that is identified by the police as pertinent to the case (in this case where the child would have most likely been seen). Hopes were that someone walking their dog or coming home from work or the store would have seen the person identified in the call and they could contact the authorities and pass along this information.
The police department has since received several calls asking if the child was found, asking if this was some type of scam that wasn’t initiated by the police and even some from callers wanting to take their name off the call list. This story ends happily. Yes the child was found. No, this was not a scam; these calls are rare but were indeed initiated by the police. Finally, I realize that some citizens were already asleep when the call came in. But please think about your children, grandchildren, elderly parents or grandparents with dementia, a friend who suffers from some level of mental incapacitation, and imagine that they have wandered off and you are working with the police to find them. Ask yourself; would you hope that your neighbors would gladly suffer a few minutes of disruption in exchange for a possible tip that helps locate your loved one? I think that answer is yes.
Zebulon is indeed the Town of Friendly People. Knowing the caliber and character of the people who live here, I am convinced that the majority of you who received calls Monday night would be glad to help in any way you could. I also believe that others, who are questioning being awakened by a late night call, simply did not understand the magnitude and urgency of the situation. Crime occurs at all hours of the day and night; people are in need at 11 a.m. and at 11 p.m. I thank you for your spirit of community policing. I ask that you continue to help us keep our community safe and let’s all continue to look out for one another.
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Timothy P. Hayworth
Editor’s note: Hayworth is the Zebulon Chief of Police.