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Bedford steps up community policing with focus on schools

BEDFORD - Students and teachers at Bedford schools can expect to soon see more police officers walking the halls.

A community outreach program aimed at increasing the visibility of daytime patrol officers in the schools is set to begin on April 8, said SAU 25 Superintendent Tim Mayes. The program was recommended by Police Chief John Bryfonski, whose desire is to step up community policing by establishing relationships with different groups in town.

"About a month ago I was approached by the chief about a program to improve the visibility of the police department in all the schools," Mayes said. "To have the kids and the faculty see the officers in the school helps everybody feel a little safer given the things that have transpired." Mayes was referring to the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman on Dec. 14 killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Mayes made the announcement about the program at this week's school board meeting.

"I think it is a marvelous, fantastic idea," said school board member Cindy Chagnon.

The plan is to have one of the police department's five daytime patrol officers visit each of the town's six schools once a month, said Mayes. The school department will schedule appointments with the officers to come in and get tours of each school building.

"That would be a good thing, I think, for them to be familiar with the inside of each building," Mayes said.

After the tours, officers will visit the schools and work to establish relationships with students and faculty. Some officers, Mayes said, could read to younger students.

In February, Bryfonski suggested officers might also join older students at after-school sports events. "It allows them to interact on a different level," Bryfonski said of the officers. "I want folks to feel like they can contact any of us at any time. It's what we're here for."

The outreach to the school population is just one facet of a multi-pronged community policing program that Bryfonski has launched. Last month, he announced the Meet the Chief program, which is held the second Tuesday of each month from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Bedford Safety Complex.

In addition, a program targeted at senior citizens called Are You OK? was initiated last year. A daily computer-generated wellness call is placed to seniors who sign up for the program. If a particular senior citizen fails to pick up the phone or otherwise acknowledge that they are OK, a patrol officer is dispatched to their home to check on their condition. The program is privately funded.

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