MERIDEN — Downtown residents enjoyed a cookout with members of the police department and the Neighborhood Initiative Unit Friday afternoon as part of an ongoing effort to increase relationships between residents and officers.
Officer Michael Shedlock was assigned to the downtown area as part of the Neighborhood Initiative Unit last month and has been working the beat to get to know residents. He has been meeting people and handing out his business card so they know who to call if they have a problem.
“What better way to get to know someone than to break bread,” Shedlock said Friday afternoon.
Donations came in from several area businesses including C-Town, Stop & Shop, Big Y, Pan Del Sinai bakery, Ebenezer Restaurant and Cold Stone Creamery, among others.
Residents of 24 Colony St. and surrounding areas enjoyed the food and music while joking around with the dozen officers in attendance.
Sgt. Vasco Lacerda said police want to help residents with any small problems before they become big ones.
Shedlock “was tasked with getting the residents more involved,” Lacerda said, noting the building at 24 Colony St. is new and interactions with the department have been minimal.
Holly Wills, president of the Meriden Council of Neighborhoods, was on hand to help out officers with the event. She said the idea of a cookout is great to allow the residents to get to know the NI officers.
“Communication between the neighborhoods and the police department is key,” Wills said.
Wilfredo Adorno has lived in the apartment building for about a year. Officer Fred Rivera translated for several Spanish-speaking residents, who said they were enjoying the event and looking forward to having a good rapport with Shedlock.
“They’re doing a good job,” Adorno said of police.
The event comes as police are dealing with a rash of gun violence in several downtown neighborhoods. But that issue seemed far from the minds of residents and officers enjoying Friday’s cookout ahead of Memorial Day weekend.
Building resident Diane Brown said it was a nice event on the part of the officers. Brown said a lot goes on downtown at night, and she was happy to know there is someone to call if a problem arises.
Shedlock hopes to continue these types of community events in the future.