Now here's a smart idea. In Largo, the police chief plans to recruit other city employees to help be the eyes and ears of the Police Department. The goal: to nab more bad guys and cut crime in the community.
Chief Lester Aradi got the brainstorm after city employee Zbigniew Sikorski helped police catch armed robbers a few months ago.
Sikorski, who works in environmental services, has a job that keeps him out in the community. One day he was cleaning out a sewer pumping station when he saw two men run from a BP gas station on Indian Rocks Road. The two men were picked up by a third man driving a Silverado pickup that had been parked nearby.
When Sikorski saw police descend on the BP station, he went over and described everything he had seen. His witness account was so good that police were able to catch the robbers.
Largo has hundreds of employees who are out and about in the city every day. The police chief sensed an opportunity.
This week he began sending out a weekly crime bulletin especially for city employees. The bulletin tells them what crimes have been committed and where, displays mug shots of people arrested, and shares details about crime trends.
"We should tap into their wisdom and street sense," Aradi said.
In doing so, the city follows in the footsteps of agencies such as the U.S. Postal Service, which years ago partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help locate lost children.
USPS also has trained its letter carriers to be alert to signs that something is amiss in the neighborhoods where they work. Letter carriers have put out fires, reported crimes and summoned help for ill or injured residents.
The worsening economy has increased crime and strained the ranks of public safety agencies everywhere.
Police departments can be more effective and have a wider reach if they have the help of all the public employees in a community.