RINCON — The long arm of the law reached out to embrace the citizens of Rincon on June 24.
The Rincon Police Department hosted Coffee with the Cops at Starbucks at 429 S. Columbia Avenue. Chief Mark Gerbino and several other officers were on hand to answer questions and build relationships.
“We had three adults come up and ask what they can do, how they can become involved (in combatting crime),” Gerbino said.
Gerbino is implementing a variety of neighborhood initiatives. Coffee with the Cops, which featured Community Resource Officer Kelli Powers manning the Starbucks drive-through window, is one of them. Another, Rincon Home Watch, was prompted by recent acts of vandalism by juveniles in the Stonewalk community.
Through Rincon Home Watch, the police department will establish a schedule of community gatherings and meet periodically with representatives of participating homeowner associations to discuss common issues, concerns and successes.
“(Rincon Home Watch) is geared more toward finding out what quality-of-life issues there might be or what their gripes are,” Gerbino said. “(Coffee with the Cops) is just about being together with them and establishing that core relationship.”
Gerbino was heartened by the encouragement he and his officers received at the launch of Coffee with the Cops.
“The best part of my job is having relationships that are positive,” he said.
Gerbino’s department is trying to reach children through its Youth Outreach Program and School Resource Program.
“We have a plethora of talents (in the department),” Gerbino said. “We just hired a seasoned police officer who is a Baptist minister. He has a Master’s degree in theological studies and was a missionary across the country dealing with youth.
“So not only is he going to handle patrol obligations as a patrol officer, he will augment those youth outreach programs.”
During Coffee with the Cops, children were given cookies and were allowed to color as officers chatted with them.
Gerbino is also fostering relationships with area churches through a chaplain program. Invitations will be extended to pastors to join it in community outreach efforts and to nurture the needs of the community and his officers.
“These are win-win (programs),” Gerbino said, “and today we are meeting people in a nice, calm enviroment. I know these folks will come to our Rincon Home Watch or youth counsel meetings — or maybe they just drop by the police department to say, ‘hello.’
“That’s what this is about.”