Despite some criticism from the area’s commissioner, the city’s elected officials Tuesday night signed off on giving the neighborhood policing program in the Heart of Boynton a second go next year.
The idea behind the program, which started at the beginning of this year, is for two police officers to be stationed in the neighborhood to build relationships, trust and respect with residents, especially along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The city’s Community Redevelopment Agency pays for the program, and plans to do so this year with about $263,000. That includes personnel costs such as salary, insurance and pension, a license plate reader, cell phones and office supplies, documents show. Last year, the CRA budgeted about $200,000. Police Chief Jeffrey Katz asked to add a third officer to the program this year, but the request was turned down.
Commissioner Mack McCray, who represents that area, said he’ll support the second year, but wants to see more proof that the program’s two policemen — Officer Terrence Paramore and Sgt. Henry Diehl — are doing what’s asked of them.
McCray said he “felt like they did not give us enough bang for our bucks” in the program’s first year. He said he’s met with the police and city manager and feels everyone is now on the “right path.”
Diehl and Paramore work out of a substation on MLK, and instead of riding in patrol cars, they walk the beat or ride on Segways.
Over the past year, the officers have worked with the community to give the Burk’s Academy daycare a face lift. They started a program called Restoring the Village, which teaches young boys respect, responsibility and community involvement.
But officials say not all goals have been met. For example, computers that should have been installed in the substation for the public to use are still not in place.
McCray told the officers they need to be more visible, on the streets more, and reach more young people.
Also, community residents were asked to attend meetings and come up with goals outlining how to improve relationships. But no one has “stepped up to the plate,” Katz said at his Town Hall meeting last week.
“I don’t know how many years we’re going to spend $260,000 on putting personnel into a community that doesn’t want to be part of its own solution,” he said. “It’s really really easy to rally people around fear. It’s really easy to rally people around loss. But it’s very hard — it takes true leadership — to rally people around the possibility of something better. That’s what those two officers are in the community to do.”