AMHERST – The Amherst Police Department has appointed a new Crime Prevention Officer.
The reigns have been passed to Tom Wood after Francis Smith passed away Dec. 23, 2011 after a brief battle with cancer.
“Francis was a pillar of the community,” said Wood. “He did the job for 11 years, and when you think about community policing everyone thinks of Francis.
“It’s hard to step into those shoes because he was so well known in the community, so I’m going to try to follow in his footsteps and try to put my own spin on some new programs.”
Wood has been with the APD for two-and-a-half years. Before moving to Amherst with his wife, who is originally from Amherst, Wood worked with the RCMP.
“I’ve been a police officer for six and a half years,” he said. “I was an RCMP officer in Alberta.”
Wood was stationed in Tofield, AB., which is about 50 kilometres east of Edmonton.
“I found Amherst is a beautiful community,” said Wood. “I enjoy working with the public, so that’s why I believe I was chosen for this job.”
Wood will focus on putting a face to the APD.
“I’m also the Downtown Liaison Officer for the downtown, so we try to promote more foot patrols in the downtown core, and the foot patrols are going to start spanning out throughout the whole community,” said Wood. “People want to see the face of the officers and I would like everyone to get to know the names of the officers.”
He tries to get APD officers out on foot patrols for at least one-hour per-shift, “and I try to get out there as much as I can.”
Bicycle patrols are another way for police to be more visible.
“We have a certain amount of officers who enjoy using the bike, so we try to get them out there on bike patrols, said Wood. “It’s all about exposure, it’s all about being seen.
We want to give a sense of security.”
Drinking and driving and domestic abuse are some of the areas Smith worked hard to educate the public and Wood will continue with those initiatives.
“Unfortunately it doesn’t go away,” said Wood. “A fair amount of cases deal with family violence and drinking and driving, and the only thing we can sometimes do is to educate people to stop the cycle.”
The same can be said for drugs.
“We have School Liaison Officer, Derek Hebert,” said Wood. “A lot of the programs dealing with drugs he’ll be taking the lead, but I’ll be assisting him in those projects.”
A reduction of bar fights and the increase of helmet compliance among cyclists and skateboarders are areas where Woods hopes to see continuing improvement.
“We have the bar suspension program where if an individual commits an assault in one of the bars they could be suspended from all the bars participating in the program,” he said. “I’ve only been here two and half years and it does seem to have reduce the number of incidents we see, especially in the summer.”
When it comes to helmet compliance Wood said, “This community is very good compared to some of the communities I worked in out in Alberta.
“We want to keep up the education because that’s a main point of injuries for kids,” he added. “We have one of the better skateboard parks in the Maritimes and people come from other areas to use the skate park.
“We don’t want to have to do a total enforcement action, so a lot of times it might be more of an educational seminar about helmet safety,”
Hebert will be coaching high school hockey beginning in the fall and Wood hopes more police take up those type of initiatives.
“We’re trying to be proactive and get more involve in the community and a lot of the officers are taking that to heart,” he said.
Wood will be helped in the transition to his new job by other Cumberland County law enforcement agencies.
“I’ve talked to Dal Hutchinson who is the community officer with the RCMP,” said Wood. “And I’m looking forward to working with him and Kenny Jackson, who is the community officer with the Springhill Police Department.
“With the passing of Francis there was no passing of the torch of information so I’m starting fresh,” he said. “So it may take a bit of time to start running with the programs we’re involved in.”