When Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson took over the Cleveland Heights Police Department
at the end of 2010, one of his objectives was to foster a relationship between the department and the residents. CHPD has long had a reputation for doling out too many speeding and parking tickets, and Robertson wanted to make community policing a focus and show the city that the department does much more than deal with traffic violations.
Part of that effort included enhancing communication with the business districts. Robertson left that job to Detective Tony Sargin, who has worked exclusively with business owners in all districts in the city to serve as a liaison, to be a point of contact in the case of break-ins or other disturbances, and to help them prevent crimes.
“The idea is to reach out to them and do what we can to help them succeed,” Sargin said. “This way, instead of making 10 phone calls, they can contact me directly.”
The department has also installed security cameras in the Cedar-Lee business district and the other major commercial areas, including adding more in the parking lot behind The Colony, where a senseless shooting in June rocked the district. By next year there will be “well over 100” surveillance cameras around the city, Robertson said.
Blue lights on the cameras make them purposely visible, the hope being that people will be deterred from committing crimes in the first place, knowing someone is watching.
“It’s not Big Brother watching. It’s about the bad guys looking up and seeing cameras. They are in parking lots, they are on the streets and are on sidewalks,” Robertson said. “They’ve helped us solve some crimes and helped us with accidents that have occurred.”
Sargin said business owners requested the extra surveillance because the cameras “enhance patrons’ safety and make business owners feel more secure.”
The police department has also hosted Meet Your Police meetings weekly for more than three years where residents can voice concerns, and the department recently launched a Citizens Police Academy, where students receive an overview of what goes into drug investigations and learn about weapons safety and the laws of arrests, to name a few items from the agenda. Classes meet twice a week for six weeks.
“We show people what the job is, and they get to know us. It’s a city where you know who your police officers are,” Robertson said. “It creates better communication between the police and the citizens.”