Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Program aimsto help kids feel comfortable with approaching police

The Crescent City Police Department would much rather prevent crime than chase down criminals after the fact, but to do that officers need to be approachable mediators for the community.

In order to make officers more personable and accessible, the Crescent City Police Department launched a baseball card program last week.

"Everyone that is affiliated with the Crescent City Police Department will have a card that they will be able to give out to the youths as a collection," said Chief Doug Plack.

The first card that was issued this month depicts K-9 Zeus, a beloved Crescent City police German shepherd that died of medical conditions in 2012.

The CCPD will introduce a new baseball card every month until every person connected to the department has their own card.

Police Cpl. Jim Wright, who developed the baseball card program for CCPD, said that sometimes kids are intimidated by officers, but the baseball card's should make officers more welcoming.

"We want to let kids know that if they have a question or they need help they can approach us," Wright said. "It's to break down the walls between officers and the community."

Wright, who also oversees the department's crime-free housing program, said it's important for people to feel comfortable coming to him to talk about various issues of concern.

"It goes back to breaking any barriers that are there, so the people know who I am and that they can approach me," Wright said.

Officers provide input on what information is included in the photos and short bios of each card, helping the community get to know the officer as a person of the community and not just an officer.

"These officers want to share their experiences and their interests with our community," Plack said.

"We want the community to know a little bit about us, and this is a way that we can that," Wright said.

Plack's card says that he "enjoys riding in his sports car or his motorcycle, fishing and is a serious New York Yankee baseball fan."

When Wright was working for police departments in Colorado, where Plack also used to work, they had a similar baseball card program do wonders for community relations. It started by police departments handing out Colorado Rockies' cards before the departments created their own cards.

"This program has been proven to be very optimistic and will help create a positive attitude about the police in their respective communities and especially among our young citizens as well," Plack said.

Plack said there have been instances in other departments where the baseball card program was employed and kids were more willing to make a cold call before a crime is committed because they'd met an officer and had a tangible card to remind them of that officer.

"We do need the community to help us fight crime in this community," Plack said, adding that the baseball cards might make kids more willing to share information with police.

Beyond police officers, the baseball cards will be created for administrative staff and Volunteers in Police Service (V.I.P.S.).

Local organizations and programs have stepped up to sponsor individual cards, including the Crescent City Women's Club, which got the ball rolling by sponsoring the Zeus card, the Family Resource Center, and the county's Tobacco Use Prevention Program.

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