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Police Department Celebrates Success of COPS

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Police officials in Buffalo say their Community Oriented Police Satellites -- or COPS stations -- are having a positive effect on the neighborhoods they serve.

There are seven COPS stations in Buffalo. The first one opened in the mid-1990s when the city's police department began a reorganization that reduced the number of police precincts. With fewer buildings to staff, there are now more police officers on the street. But there's no doubt the physical presence of a building gives residents a sense of security. That's why Police Commissioner Rocco Diina says the COPS program has been a success from the very start.

"I think the public and communities needed something in their neighborhoods with the transition from 14 police precincts to five districts," Diina said. "It satisfied the need within these neighborhoods to have some sort of visible presence. But it's a two-way street. We made it clear that for these stations to be successful, we needed community support. The communities delivered."

Diina was at the Gloria Parks Community Center in the city's University district yesterday where one of the COPS stations is located.

When the station is open, it's staffed by a volunteer who handles the day-to-day complaints of area residents. Many of those are so-called "quality of life" complaints, such as a barking dog or loud music. But Gloria Parks Director Susan Lumadue says responding to such complaints is important to residents.

"In the past, people with quality of life problems would call 911 and would often fail to receive a timely response," she said. "So, the reason these stations were established was to help with that issue."

The COPS stations are also places where neighborhood residents are able to arm themselves with information on crime prevention.

Officers involved in community policing also like the stations. Officer Kim Beaty says the one at Gloria Parks helps her better relate to neighborhood residents.

"It helps us build a better relationship with the community," Beaty said. "We can go into a community center where people are able to see that we have a human side. It helps build trust."

Police Commissioner Diina used his appearance at Gloria Parks yesterday to thank the John R. Oishei Foundation for a $216,000 grant. The money will help fund three of the COPS stations over the next two years.