|By G. Michael Dobbs|
WESTFIELD The Westfield Police Department has added a community policing officer and a new interactive website that will allow the communication of concerns between the public and the police.
Officer Douglas LaValley, a Westfield native and resident, has been a member of the Department for six years and said he is looking forward to working in his district and getting to know the neighborhood as the new community policing officer. There are now six community policing districts in the city.
LaValley's area is defined by N. Elm Street up to the entrance of the Massachusetts Turnpike and Colonial Pines Acres and the area between Pochassic and Notre Dame Streets over to the Sadie Knox Playground. He will have an office at Colonial Pines Acres, but will be on foot and bike patrols throughout the area.
"I'll be very visible," he said.
In the next few weeks he hopes to meet with neighbors to hear their concerns and to set his priorities.
What he likes about the new position is that he can address specific concerns with the residents. He said that in a standard patrol situation officers "bounce from call to call," and that community policing allows officers to concentrate on "the things that really concern [the public]."
He said a recently survey of residents yielded a high number of returns which will help him understand the needs of the district.
He would primarily work a 4 p.m. to midnight shift, although he said the position has "a lot of flexibility."
LaValley's position is funded by the city with his training and equipment covered by a grant.
Westfield Police Chief John Camerota said that community policing is "the heart and soul" of the Department. He said community policing has been very successful in the city so far and that the decision to expand operations are made according to crime statistics and funding.
The new website (http://www.westfieldcommunitypolice.com) is expected to help the community policing effort by not only providing general information about the Department, but also by giving each officer a page on which he can post messages to the district.
The website was developed by Richard Gadreau of Whalley Computers who said the site has been two months in development. Gadreau approached the Department about the new site after he had attended its citizen police program.
The site will be hosted free of charge by Whalley Computer and Paul Whalley explained that, although his company doesn't normally provide that service, he is happy to do so.
Whalley said the new site is "exciting. People can see what is happening in their neighborhood."