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Policing program called a success

(ran LA edition)

In the neighborhood around Clearwater-Largo Road they're called Fox Trot.

That's the code name for the community police patrols that work the area each day. Unlike police on patrol in other areas of the city, this group is either on motorcycles, on bikes or on foot. Residents and business owners deal with the same officers day after day.

And after 13 months of the trial program, both sides of the community policing issue have pronounced it a success.

"This new approach (to policing) has all of us in awe," Ron Bortolini said at a Largo commission meeting Tuesday night. "The results are overwhelmingly positive."

Bortolini is executive director of the Clearwater-Largo Road Merchants Association, which was organized as a result of community policing in the neighborhood.

At Tuesday's meeting, Fox Trot members were equally enthusiastic.

"These people are my friends," Officer Bruce Mott said after the meeting. "Heck, I went on vacation with some of them this year."

Among the neighborhood improvements directly attributed to the community policing effort in the area are street lights, removal of junk from vacant yards, the forming of neighborhood associations, the development of Woodrow Park for the neighborhood's children and the establishment of a neighborhood bulletin board.

On Oct. 31 police officers are planning a Halloween party for neighborhood children.

"Children used to be taught "the policeman will get you,' " said Commissioner Jean Halvorsen. "Now they're going to learn "the policeman will help you.' "

Police Chief Richard Kistner told commissioners he is planning to expand the community policing concept to other areas of the city.

As it has been along the Clearwater-Largo Road corridor, the goal will be to make the neighborhoods more desirable and the people feel safer because of the police presence, Kistner said.

The residents of the neighborhood will not be abandoned as the program expands, Kistner said. Within the next year, there are plans for new sidewalks, the establishment of a Police Athletic League, a youth football program and the upgrading of business exteriors in the neighborhood.