First with now-retired Chris Perkins and now with Chief of Police Tim Jones in charge, community policing in Roanoke has come to the forefront. Over the past year or so those efforts now include a half dozen patrol cars decorated with decals and contact information on such issues as human trafficking, autism awareness and the Help Save the Next Girl campaign.
The latest marked cruiser debuted recently – this one in conjunction with TAP on domestic abuse.
Stacy Shepherd, the director of housing and human services for Total Action for Progress, was on hand with Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea and others when the domestic abuse decals added to the patrol car went public. “We want to spread the word about the resources and services we have available,” said Sheperd.
Included on the car is the 24/7 domestic abuse hotline number that someone can call if they are suffering at the hands of a spouse or significant other and need help.
“Someone to talk to, emergency needs, crisis management… we’re there to help in conjunction with the police department,” said Shepherd. Last year that hotline handled almost 600 calls; surveys showed 94% of those calling said they felt safer after making contact. “This car [with decals] is to let people know there is help in those situations.” Grant funding and help from local companies paid for the decals.
Jones said the adorned patrol car “is a moving representation of what we are trying to stop – the domestic violence abuse within our city. Domestic assault is one of the primary drivers for calls for service. We want people who experience [abuse] to break out of that cycle. There is assistance and help out there.” Unchecked domestic violence can lead to disastrous consequences, noted Jones.
The chief is willing to consider more worthy causes for his patrol cars in the future – think of them as rolling billboards – saying it reminds him in some ways of the more commercial messages seen in NASCAR races. “It’s a great mobile symbol of awareness – if we have one person make that call and find themselves some assistance or resources, help break the cycle of violence, then it’s worth every penny.”