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Community policing pays early dividends

Corporal Tony Gallagher, head of Lehigh’s community policing team, stops to chat with Andy Po, owner of the Homebase Skateshop on Fourth Street in South Bethlehem.

At first glance, the work space in the Campus Square substation for Cpl. Tony Gallagher and the four other officers in Lehigh’s community policing team seems a bit cramped.

But if you walk the beat with the officers you’ll realize their real office is the 15-block area bounded by Buchanan Street to the east, Carlton Avenue to the west, Fourth Street and Broadway to the north, and Lehigh’s campus to the south.

Six months ago, Lehigh launched a community policing partnership with the Bethlehem Police Department that placed Gallagher and his officers in the neighborhoods surrounding the university. The goal was to promote safety and enhance the quality of life for students, residents and South Side business owners.

“So far, we’ve noticed a significant decrease in crime in the area we’re patrolling and the response from everyone—students, residents and area shopkeepers alike—has been extremely positive,” says Gallagher.

“That’s a credit to our officers, who have bought into our community policing philosophy, which is to get out in the community and interact with residents.”

Patrolling on foot, bike, Segway and “chariot”

Gallagher’s fellow community policing officers are Greg Nolf, Richard Holmes, John Torres and Matt Hyman.

To get better acquainted with residents, business owners and Lehigh students living off campus, they patrol their beat on foot, bicycles, Segways and three-wheeled T-3 motion scooters called “chariots.”

“We’ve gotten tremendous feedback from everyone,” said Ed Shupp, chief of the Lehigh University Police Department. “Tony and the rest of the community police force are out in the neighborhood every day, and South Side residents and business owners are getting to know them on a first-name basis. They’re building trusting relationships all over the South Side.”

Gallagher credits his officers for the program’s success.

“These guys have been great, and it wouldn’t work without their buy-in, commitment and hard work,” says Gallagher. “I was given the freedom to do some recruiting, so that’s what I did. Once I put the team together, I said ‘prove it to me’ and they have.”

“More than just a substation”

“Real community policing is more than just a substation and a couple of bikes. It’s getting out there and getting involved and Tony Gallagher, Greg Nolf, Richard Holmes, John Torres and Matt Hyman have done just that,” says John Smeaton, vice provost for Student Affairs. “These officers are fully committed to the health and safety of our students and to building positive relationships with off-campus students and their neighbors. I am extremely proud of what they have been able to accomplish in such a short time.”

Steven Tremblay ‘10 saw the value of community policing last semester when Hyman arrested an individual who attempted to break into his residence on Birkel Avenue.

“Officer Hyman embodies all that is trusted in a Lehigh police officer,” said Tremblay. “He is protective of students and he serves to help us out in any way possible.”

The wall behind Gallagher’s desk in the substation is filled with similar notes of praise from students, South Side residents and shop owners.

Meanwhile, he’s brainstorming ways to build on the program’s success.

“We’re looking to do some block watch programs in the fall,” says Gallagher. “The students and residents are our eyes and ears and we need to be able to communicate effectively with them for community policing to work.” 


Photos by Douglas Benedict

Story by Bill Doherty

Posted on Tuesday, July 13, 2010

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