“Less suit and tie, more jeans and Jordans.”
That’s the message that Blake Lynch wants to send to the public as he settles into his new role as the Harrisburg Police Bureau’s community policing coordinator, a civilian position that he assumed on March 26.
Lynch will share his title with Cpl. Josh Hammer, the officer who has been leading Harrisburg’s community policing program since David Botero vacated the civilian coordinator position last June. Lynch and Hammer said that Botero did not have a designated police officer counterpart, but they hope that their new partnership will let them cover even more ground in the city.
“This is a clear sign of how important the community is to our mayor and our police commissioner,” said Joyce Davis, Harrisburg’s director of communications. “No mission more important than making sure we have the trust of the community, and now we have two people assigned to build that up.”
As the civilian community policing coordinator, Lynch is charged with building trust in the city’s Police Bureau by serving as a liaison between the police and the public. He said he’s spent the first week of his tenure acquainting himself with different neighborhood associations and nonprofit groups across the city.
Soon, he hopes to start building rapport with residents and neighborhoods that might have a distrust of the police.
“I’m not a police officer, but I have the full backing of the police department,” Lynch said. “As people continue to establish trust with us… I hope we can close more cases.”
“Blake will be able to communicate and get into groups that might have a trust breakdown,” Hammer added. “If they don’t feel comfortable coming to us, we hope they will feel comfortable with Blake.”
Ultimately, Hammer and Lynch hope that a comprehensive community policing program will generate tips, cultivate informants and even cut down on crime. Lynch hopes to partner with local non-profits to create youth engagement programs, which would be aimed at reducing criminal mischief and juvenile crime.
“Our job is to make it easier for our patrol officers,” Hammer said. “If we build relationships and earn trust, it’ll help us down the road.”
Hammer said that there are no immediate plans to assign more officers to the community policing division.