The Bike Patrols are back in Downtown Salisbury.
Ensuring that Downtown is a safe environment where people can visit without apprehension is more than a goal for Salisbury Mayor Jake Day — it’s an essential.
“You’re going to see a lot more officers out there,” Day said. “The Downtown is key in everything we’re trying to achieve. You’ll see more officers all across the city.”
For a few years now, Officer Aaron “Bull” Hudson has been the face of the Salisbury Police Department among the Downtown business people and merchants. Either on bicycle, on foot or in a patrol car, Hudson has been “The Man” Downtown.
Now Hudson has a compatriot, Officer John Dimare Jr.. The two men will be deployed to add additional hours of coverage, not only Downtown but in a huge footprint that covers the center of the city.
“The footprint of the Downtown is more than the Plaza,” said Police Chief Barbara Duncan. “We’re up in the Zoo and the (City) Park, we’re down in the marina, we’re over in the Newtown neighborhood, and we’re in the Camden neighborhood.”
Just spend a few minutes around the Bike Patrol officers and you’ll immediately see their connections to the public. People driving by will call out and wave; people on foot will stop and say hello. The officers have a near-celebrity status epitomized in movie portrayals of small-town life.
“Their being here and their activities are what’s helping to contribute that that sense of calm that Downtown right now,” Duncan said.
Officer Hudson is so well -known across the city, he was the recipient of a We Heart SBY Award.
“This is the best job in the world,” said Hudson. “The people are great and we can see and feel that we are making a difference in our city.”
The chief said there will be two officers patrolling Downtown most days — one daytime officer and one evening officer — with additional coverage on weekends. The Salisbury Police already increase their presence during big-crowd events, such as 3rd Fridays and 1st Saturdays.
The Bike Patrol officers have things they look out for, based on citizen reports of activity, as well as what they’ve seen previously. As those who work and live Downtown, the area has a cast of “characters,” many of whom are homeless and wander about.
Duncan said the officers are aware of what to look for and know what to do.
“They will deal with everything from quality-of-life issues to normal urban crime-related issues. This is a part of City Patrol,” she said.
The Police Department is budgeted for 102 sworn officers. Recruits coming online, combined with the fiscal 2017 budget that will take effect in July, is ensuring a full complement of officers.
“Under Mayor Day, who has supported our hiring and and continuing our hiring practice, we’re able to distribute some manpower pump up patrol a little bit and get that additional person down here in the evenings,” Duncan said.
Day said another part of his commitment to Public Safety is the redeployment of a group to attack special crime problems across Salisbury.
“You’re going to see the Safe Streets Team making significant arrests,” Day said. “Now that we have a full sworn complement officers, this is the team that’s going to change, I think, how we address hot spots. As things pop up, this is the team that goes and solves the problems.”
Duncan said the message for the region is that Downtown Salisbury is headed back to prominence.
“There are a lot of really positive things happening Downtown. And we want to support that in any way shape or form that we could,” Duncan said.
“We’re open for business Downtown, and the Salisbury Police Department is definitely here to make sure that continues.”
Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at email@example.com