WASHINGTON — On a warm summer’s night, Alexandria, Virginia police officers along with their chief went door to door on West Glebe Road. The officers entered each business asking for managers and owners, but they were not investigating a crime. Instead, they were opening up a dialogue with business owners.
“I want them [the citizens] to see us,” said Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook.
He said the department reaches out to the community online in many ways, including its website along with Facebook and Twitter accounts, but he said what is really important is talking with the community, person to person.
“The face to face contact is what I really need and my officers need to build relationships,” Cook said.
The head of the police department, who is an Alexandria native, said his officers are in the community every day, speaking with the people they serve. He wants the community to know that members of the department who aren’t on patrol daily are also listening.
“It helps us to know that we’re out here wanting to listen to what’s going on,” Cook said.
Joshua Lee, the manager of the Foodway store on West Glebe Road, said police stepped up patrols of the area after problems three years ago. He credits the added patrols with making the area safer.
While many neighboring communities see a lot more crime than Alexandria, Cook said the city isn’t much different from other urban communities.
“We still have big city issues,” Cook said.
Recently, one of the challenges for the area has been a spike in calls to 911 dispatchers from people who believe they have heard gun shots.
“Every year, every community has shots fired calls, you have to take them seriously and hopefully on the other end of that, there is not a crime,” Cook said.
Cook hopes community walks like this will help his department combat crimes of all types in the city. The goal is to help citizens get to know members of his department and feel comfortable coming to them with concerns.