Neighbors and busy residential property managers in north Auburn, Dawn Costello and Robin Dyer had never met.
Until police extended a helping hand.
A tried-and-true program has brought together Auburn Police and managers and owners of multi-residential properties throughout the city to address and resolve safety and crime concerns and other issues such as tenant troubles, policies, even code enforcement, landscaping and street lighting.
The program, informally called Coffee with the Cops, has grown into something more than a communication and educational tool for police to help residents identify and prevent problems in their neighborhoods. Property managers and owners are invited to gather with police monthly at a common site to share conversation, food and drink, resources and ways to help themselves.
“For the most part, it is making ourselves available to managers and owners … creating opportunities for them to network and building some relationships,” said Officer Jason Blake, who works with the police department’s community response team. “… If they have shared problems, sometimes they can join forces to look at ways to combat things.”
Especially at apartment complexes, senior communities and mobile home parks – more condensed, multi-dwelling neighborhoods that may be more prone to theft, noise complaints, disturbances and scams.
Having a more visible, proactive police presence has created a coordinated and comfortable environment to tackle problems and trends, according to property managers.
“This is a way for us to get together, further support our community … and express our concerns to keep our neighborhoods safe,” said Costello, who along with her husband, Matthew, co-manages The River, a 317-unit mobile home community for 55-and-older residents. “It’s a wonderful way to show camaraderie and that we can work together and create a safer Auburn.
“In the long term, it helps to better serve our residents … and it shows that we care.”
The program, six months old, recently brought sides together at The River’s community center, a large, inviting complex. There, Officers Blake and April Clapp patiently fielded questions from managers and residents on several topics, offered professional advice and tips, then smiled and mingled over lunch.
“They are not just 911, they are April and Jason,” said Dyer, who manages the 160-unit Auburn Square Apartments, which sits across I Street Northeast from The River estates. “You call them and they’re here. They always make time. They answer your questions.
“The senior community feels safer with their appearance. They seem much more confident.”
The program allows managers to express their concerns, exchange similar experiences in dealing with problems and offer ways to resolve them. The program has attracted the interest of about 40 residential property owners and managers, Costello said.
“It’s not just networking, we’re building communities as well,” Dyer said. “Managers who might have experienced things that other mangers haven’t experienced before … can help each other. It helps ease the stress. … It has brought us together.”
Blake said the program emphasizes education, common sense and those fundamentals that basic block watch programs follow. It is important to get to know your neighbor, he said, and look out for each other, especially in multi-residential areas.
And if managers and residents need help, they can always call a familiar personality.
“We work closely (with them) … and it has proven beneficial to us and the managers,” Blake said. “They get to know us … and know they can contact us and help settle problems.”
Managers, residents and police are getting together to ensure safe living conditions for all. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter