Two community police officers are now working out of a storefront office at the Sterling Park Shopping Mall.
The office opened in April to serve the Sterling Park area, including the shopping mall, the Sterling Plaza and two residential areas, Pembrook and South Townhouses.
"We went there to address some increase of gang activity and quality of life issues," said Sgt. Rick Frye, supervisor of community policing.
Through two grant positions, deputies Mike Hall and Easton McDonald are working at the Sterling Park Station, which has space for two desks and a table of brochures. The grants are through the Department of Justice's community policing office, which has provided the Sheriff's Office with grants for the past two years.
"With the increase in juvenile crime and gang activity, it's a welcome sight for business owners down here. They like our presence," said Sheriff Stephen Simpson.
Besides Sterling Park, the Community Policing Unit serves the communities of Sugarland Run, Newberry and CountrySide and has community policing offices in Sugarland Run, CountrySide and Pembrook. Six deputies, including Frye, work in the unit.
THE SHERIFF'S OFFICE instituted community policing in 2000 to involve residents and businesses in improving the quality of life and reducing crime in their communities.
"It brings residents and police together to collectively work on issues and problems in the neighborhoods," Frye said. "We need assistance and buy-in from the businesses and residents to help us collectively problem-solve because our problems are unique and challenging. ... The traditional approach to law enforcement isn't the total answer anymore."
The community police officers work the neighborhoods, traveling by bike or foot, what Easton describes as the beat cop who knows residents by name. "We want to get into the community and work on quality of life issues," he said.
"Just having our presence out on bikes or foot patrol keeps crime activity down," Hall said. "There's a lot of community complaints. It gives them a direct line to the Sheriff's Office to assist them with problems and cleaning up their neighborhoods," Hall said.
The Sterling Park Station is located in the Sterling Mall at 408 S. Sterling Boulevard.