Officer’s aim: Improved community relations

Community relations officer Eric Muller plans to start a public information campaign that will cover topics from crime prevention to educational messages about gun safety and drunken driving. (Staff photo: Tony Bullocks)

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

As the new community relations officer for the Clovis Police Department, Eric Muller hopes to strengthen the department’s relationship with the community and rebuild programs that tapered off in recent years.

About two weeks into his position, Muller is brimming with ideas ranging from holiday programs for children to Neighborhood Watches and senior programs to education and awareness programs for the community as a whole.

The 32-year-old master patrol officer said a strong relationship between law enforcement and the public is critical to police being effective in the community.

“We want the officers to be more and more prevalent in the neighborhoods. That’s my goal, and once you have that, then (citizens) start feeling more comfortable because they know who they’re talking to,” he said.

Two years ago when the department suffered staffing shortages and the community relations position had to be cut, many programs fizzled, according to Police Chief Dan Blair.

“When we had to back off doing certain programs and projects, that’s when the breakdown in certain areas occurred. We didn’t push those programs — you have to have somebody who continually keeps that fire going,” Blair said.

The initial push for togetherness with the community will come in the revival of Neighborhood Watch programs, Blair said.

Getting neighborhoods talking and working together, Blair believes, is a to making communities safe.

“We get home, we shut our blinds and we don’t want to know what’s going on outside our house — that is a change from 30 years ago,” Blair said.

In a Neighborhood Watch program, residents form a committee designed to observe activity in their area and report information to police.

Community members are often the first or only witnesses to criminal activity and knowing how to relay descriptive information — what kind of car, how many occupants, direction of travel — is vital to police being able to track down suspects, Blair said.

“(Residents) need to take back their communities. They can say, ‘We’re not going to put up with this.’ The more that they inform us, the more proactive we can be,” Muller said.

“There were a lot of Neighborhood Watch groups that were formed in the past. I want to reorganize them and get them back together.”

Additionally, Muller is launching a public information campaign that will cover topics from crime prevention to educational messages about gun safety and drunken driving.