Sanford Police have a new pilot program where some officers are tryingto be proactive, rather than reactive, to problem-solving and crime prevention. The Community Awareness Team, or CAT, has been in place for twomonths, and it's getting a positive response from residents and officers.
Officer KateWalsh rides around in a golf cart looking for solutions to problems in areaslike historic Downtown Sanford. "We recently had a graffiti issue in this alleyup here," she gestures. "Why not havesomeone come and paint a mural in that alley way?" she asks.
As a participant in the CAT program, Walsh explains what is means to be proactive. "We don't take calls for service. We goidentify problems in the community and try to identify positive solutions tothose problems."
She says she has managed to get some people off the streets of downtown, adding, "It softenedme up as an officer to the homeless and the vagrants that hang up and drink.There are resources out there."
While OfficerWalsh patrols in downtown Sanford, Officer Josh Strobridge goes aroundGoldsboro. He said he likes to patrol in a golf cart or on a bicycle. "We likethat a lot, because we're more approachable."
He reflects on why he's taking achance at putting his safety on the line by stepping out of a patrol car. "In law enforcement, period, you worry for your own safety, but I enjoywhat we're doing now, and I think it's different from what's been done before."
He acknowledges that racial tensions have flared in the community following the Trayvon Martin shooting, but he realizes the risk and isintent on repairing relations. "Don't let one bad apple ruin the whole bunch."
Officer Walsh says it's a job that she loves doing every day. "Wejust try to stay in the middle, stay impartial and stay compromised."
Theofficers were moved off road patrol to be part of the CAT program.