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Bedford police chief stresses crime prevention

BEDFORD - Despite high-profile crimes, the town of Bedford says it is continuing to make crime prevention a top priority, and the police department's Community Policing Program is at the heart of it.

Chief John Bryfonski, who formalized the program about a year ago, said that while his department has to be good at solving crimes, it should also be able to thwart them whenever possible.

"We should be focused on preventing crime," Bryfonski said, "and to do that, we have to engage the community in the process."

The Community Policing Program is based on meeting the needs of residents in four groups, said Bryfonski - the elderly, children, businesses and neighborhood groups, with a crime prevention piece for each one.

"It focuses on four groups that should really touch on every citizen in Bedford," he said.

Town Manager Jessie Levine said the program provides an important connection between residents and the department.

"In addition to crime prevention, I like the idea that our residents and businesses will get to know the men and women who work for our police department," she said. "I think it helps a community feel smaller when we can interact on a more personal level."

For seniors, the Are You OK? program is one of the ways the elderly can have regular contact with the department. A computer-generated call is made to a registered residence, and if the phone is not answered, police pay a visit to the home.

"This gives a sense of security not only to the participants, but also to their families," Bryfonski said.

Bryfonski said the department also provides seminars on issues that may be important to Bedford's seniors, including scams that target the elderly.

"We've done a lot of talks with seniors, they're really well-received and our officers love doing it," Bryfonski said.

Children and youth can expect to see Bedford Police officers in their school communities as well.

From reading stories to elementary students about strangers to joining older students at after-school sports programs, Bryfonski stressed the importance of kids having positive contact with his staff.

"It allows them to interact on a different level," he said, adding that the casual atmosphere lends itself to more openness and engagement on the part of the students, and allows officers to be seen as role models.

Police also work with businesses on issues such as shoplifting and robbery, as well as parking lot safety.

An area that is seeing growth in terms of community policing is the Neighborhood Watch program, Bryfonski said.

"The neighborhood watches have really taken off," he said. "It's been wonderful to see."

Neighbors can meet with officers to get tips on safeguarding themselves and their properties.

"We want them to 'harden their targets,' " Bryfonski said, by implementing safety measures such as deadbolts, motion sensor lights and securing window air conditioners.

"A vast amount of the housing stock in Bedford is secluded," Bryfonski said, with many houses set back far from the road.

"People don't always think of ways burglars can get into their houses," he said.

With many residents working during the day, Bryfonski said most break-ins occur between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., and residents should report anything that appears suspicious to the department immediately.

Many people don't make a call when they see something suspicious because they don't want to bother the department, Bryfonski said.

"But that is precisely what folks need to call us about," he said.

Bryfonski said the department saw a slight spike in calls regarding suspicious activity after a home invasion on Proclamation Court in November that left an anesthesiologist and his wife seriously injured, but when the department rolled out its "See something, say something" campaign in early 2012, those calls tripled.

"That's exactly what we want to see," he said.

Levine said she appreciates the enthusiasm with which the patrol officers have embraced the neighborhood watch program and their eagerness to develop and embrace it.

Bryfonski has also introduced a Meet the Chief program, which will be held the second Tuesday of each month, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Bedford Safety Complex.

"I want folks to feel like they can contact any one of us any time," he said. "It's what we're here for - our first duty is to be public servants."

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