If policemen come to your door in the coming weeks, there’s nothing to worry about. They are simply looking for your ideas.
The door-to-door visits are part of a new initiative to find out what Princeton residents expect of the newly consolidated Princeton Police Department.
Police Chief David Dudeck unveiled a new town-wide community expectations survey at a press conference last Friday in the Princeton Municipal building.
Beginning next week, members of the department’s Safe Neighborhood Unit will survey between 50 and 75 homes in each of five sectors of the town on Saturdays and between 5 and 7:30 p.m. weekdays. Businesses will also be surveyed.
The survey will be available online via surveymonkey.com, and on the department’s website, www.princetonnj.gov/police. It takes between five and ten minutes to complete and will be available in English and Spanish. It is expected to conclude sometime in mid-April.
“We hope to identify the needs and expectations of the community in regard to its police department,” said Chief Dudeck.
Members of the Princeton Public Safety Committee: Mayor Liz Lempert, Police Commissioner Heather Howard, and Fire Commissioner Lance Liverman received the first copies of the two-page survey.
“The Public Safety Committee opens lines of communication between the police, the politicians, and the town,” said Mr. Dudeck. “During consolidation there was a great deal of talk about community policing and now we are asking for input from the people of Princeton. Where should Princeton go with its police department? This survey is a way for us to find out what people expect of us,” he said.
Speaking about the expectations of saving money and enhanced services that consolidation has raised, Mayor Lempert said: “one of the most important things our police can do is to get out into the neighborhood and prevent problems. In the past, both police departments in the Borough and Township had versions of a Safe Neighborhoods Unit that were eliminated because of budget cuts. It is important to bring these back and to beef these up. The police department is being responsive to the community.”
“This is good news to share with the media and the town,” said Mr. Dudeck as he described the police department’s Support Services Division’s two units: Safe Neighborhood Unit and Traffic Safety, a new community policing initiative that will be proactive and quicker to respond than in the past.
Members of the Safe Neighborhoods Unit: Sgt. Jon Bucchere, Officer Leonard “Buddy” Thomas, and Officer Dan Federico will conduct the in-person surveys. In addition, Sgt. Steve Riccatello and one other officer will be in charge of social media.
Police Commissioner Howard described the survey as a first step toward achieving the promises of consolidation. “The Safe Neighborhood Unit will bring police officers on bicycles to our streets for the sort of community police that we had to cut back on in the past,” she said, commending the police chief for getting the survey out so quickly.
Mr. Liverman said that the police presence is especially important for children. “It’s a way to create respect,” he said. “In my recollection, this is the first time that police officers will be going door-to-door.”
Sgt. Bucchere spoke about making sure the survey would reach as many people as possible. Hence the use of social media in addition to the in-person visits. “Because surveymonkey.com tallies the results of the survey, we will be able to discover the dominant needs and prioritize for the future,” added Officer Federico. “By going door-to door we have an opportunity to set a positive example and create a good foundation,” said Officer Thomas.
“We want the community to understand that we want to know their needs and how they can contribute their input,” said Mr. Dudeck. “To understand the public’s concerns we need to hear them.”
Sgt. Tom Murray, head of the Traffic Safety Unit and a 21-year veteran of the former Township police force, spoke of his delight at having two officers dedicated to his unit now as compared to the past. He said that the manpower will allow a faster response time to traffic issues. The Traffic Safety Unit is also responsible for 23 crossing guards.
Public comment is crucial to the survey’s success and ultimately to the department’s ability to address community needs. “We don’t want to be the type of police department which drives down the street and stays in our cars,” said Mr. Dudeck.
There are five questions on the two-page survey with ample space for residents’ responses. Names, email addresses and telephone numbers are optional but it is important to include a street address. The questions cover residents’ expectations of the newly consolidated police force in the neighborhood and in the town as a whole; ways in which the force can better serve; specific questions about the value of a Safe Neighborhood Unit’s various functions such as bicycle patrols, police station tours, school programs, and community events; and about the Traffic Safety Unit, including radar enforcement, school crossings, accident investigations, and overweight commercial vehicle enforcement. There is also space for additional comments and recommendations.
Besides posting information on its website, the Princeton Police Department will use social media accounts on both Facebook and Twitter to update the community on events, traffic, public safety, and other information. Twitter and Facebook allow for two way communication so the public can be involved. Nixel allows the police to receive alerts from the surrounding area.