At least 12 times each month, the Bellingham Police Department offers safety training courses and tips on general safety on the streets, personal safety, holiday safety and more with one goal – keeping the residents of Bellingham safe.
“That’s our job,” said Eric Osterkamp, neighborhood police officer. “We go out and talk to businesses, neighborhoods and organizations trying to reach as many people as possible to keep this community safe.”
Three years ago this summer, Bellingham Police Chief Cliff Cook created a blueprint for the department to more effectively communicate with residents by introducing the Neighborhood Police Officer program. Officers attended training in Vancouver, Washington, which already has the program.
Being a good neighbor doesn’t only help yourself, but makes your neighborhood a better community that you can be proud to live in.
Eric Osterkamp, Bellingham neighborhood police officer
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The Neighborhood Police Officer program complements the existing Neighborhood Anti-Crime Team by focusing on communication and face-to-face meetings with neighborhood organizations and residents. The Neighborhood Police Officers do not routinely respond to emergency calls.
Osterkamp covers the 12 neighborhoods south of Whatcom Creek, and Officer Dante Alexander covers the 13 neighborhoods north of Whatcom Creek. Even though the officers are assigned to north and south areas, they work in tandem to support each other in order to ensure residents’ needs are best served, Osterkamp said.
“Our primary mission is to find ways to communicate with our city residents in order to assist with questions, solve problems or to direct our residents to the appropriate resource that can assist them,” Osterkamp said.
While the officers play an integral role in the community’s safety, Osterkamp said every resident has a responsibility to help keep the community safe and ticked off a “short list” of things you can do:
Get to know your neighbors. If you don’t know the first name of your neighbors and where they work, go knock on their door and start a conversation or host a block party. Being neighborly helps everyone understand what is normal for them and any special circumstances they might have, such as, medical issues or children with special needs.
Keep your yard clear of debris and your vegetation trimmed. Your pathways, house numbers, front door and other access should be easily identifiable and shouldn’t allow someone to hide or ambush you.
Consider installing a security system and make sure you place a sign in your yard that clearly identifies that your house is protected by a security company.
“Being a good neighbor doesn’t only help yourself, but makes your neighborhood a better community that you can be proud to live in,” Osterkamp said.
Safety on the Street
▪ Before you leave home, decide what you actually need to take with you, rather than automatically taking your entire handbag or wallet out of habit. For example, if you are going to the grocery store for a few items, you can carry cash, a single check or credit/debit card, identification and keys in a pocket.
▪ Wear clothing and shoes that are comfortable, low profile and appropriate for the weather. This may not be the most fashionable choice, but it is the safest.
▪ Always plan your route and stay alert to your surroundings. Avoid shortcuts. Walk confidently. Scan your surroundings and make eye contact with people.
▪ If you must carry valuables such as important papers, jewelry, cash, etc., chose to wear clothes with inside pockets or use a small bag with a long thin strap to be worn under your coat or clothes.
▪ All cash should be carried in front pockets of pants.