ELWOOD, Ind. — A few weeks ago, Elwood police officers stepped into the Marsh Supermarket on Ind. 37.
"What's wrong?" asked a few concerned employees.
There was no crime being investigated. The officers were there to introduce themselves and make their presence known. It's the "what's wrong" reaction that Chief of Police Sam Hanna is looking to change with a series of community policing initiatives.
In March, Hanna and Elwood Mayor Ron Arnold revealed plans aimed at efficient use of police resources and introducing a young force to the community. The plans include downtown walking patrols, bike brigades, a police cadet program, Hispanic outreach and introduction of a citizen review panel.
This past week, Hanna announced that the city and police department had either met or had made significant progress toward the goals they set in the spring. The department has especially stepped up foot patrols and bike patrols in anticipation of summer events like the Elwood Glass Festival in August, when a significant police presence will be necessary.
But the department is also focusing on getting to know the city and vice versa. Hanna was concerned his younger police force didn't have a connection with the small-town residents and wanted more interaction with local businesses.
"The businesses aren't used to seeing them, and that's what we wanted to change," Hanna said.
Some of the other initiatives were aimed at increasing a law enforcement presence without further stretching resources. Hanna said he's seen an increase in participation from volunteers in the city's neighborhood watch program. He also hired five new reserve officers to bring the total to eight reserves.
Hanna also wanted the department to grow its own force from within the city by reaching out to high school students. Captain Scott Bertram started a summer weightlifting program with Elwood High School students, again with the intention of introducing law enforcement to the community.