Building trust one step at a time Boynton Beach police officers are using an old-school method to reconnect with people in the heart of the city.
"I've never seen something like that before," said Kaeshwan Daughtry outside a home on NE 11th Avenue.
Two police officers walked up to him and his friends just to introduce themselves.
"Just walking, talking to the people, being friendly, it's kind of a change," Daughtry explained.
It's called a Neighborhood Policing Program. The department put it into action three weeks ago.
Sergeant Henry Diehl and Officer Terrence Paramore work out of a substation at 404 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd (NE 10th Avenue). Every shift, they walk, bike, or ride three-wheel Segways through the streets.
The program is funded by the Community Redevelopment Agency which is working to bring new developments to MLK Blvd and the greater Heart of Boynton Beach neighborhood which covers an area from Boynton Beach Blvd to North 13th Avenue and from I-95 to Federal Highway.
The first year will cost the CRA $200,000.
"You get to hear a lot more, you get personal with the residents," explained Ofc. Paramore, who applied for this position after working in the department's road patrol for about five years.
The goal is to build respect and trust between the community and law enforcement. It's a proactive approach to reducing crime.
"We want to have people to where they're comfortable talking with us and know who we are," Paramore pointed out.
Daughtry says high-profile cases like the officer-involved shooting death of his cousin Corey Jones by a Palm Beach Gardens detective can give people the impression police, in general, try to cover things up.
"Some people feel like they don't get respect from the police, so they disrespect them," he pointed out.
But today, an impromptu game of catch started between Daughtry's friends and the officers.
EJ Hamilton said that goes a long way toward building a relationship.
"[It shows] officers aren't here to harass us, they're here to help us because we're chilling," Hamilton said.
Those moments show officers this new program can make a difference.
The Boynton Beach Coalition of Clergy works in the community. It has criticized the police department in the past. But its president said the group fully supports this program.
Reverend Richard Dames said seeing a positive police presence in the neighborhood should mend relations between the community and police officers. He hopes the officers will become role models for children in the area.
Statistics were not readily available on the number of crimes committed in the Heart of Boynton Beach neighborhood compared to other parts of the city.
Click here to see a map of the locations of burglaries, robberies and assaults reported in the Boynton Beach city limits from January 2015 to September 2015. Burglaries are marked in blue, assaults in purple and robberies in red.