Police Chief Chris Edin has been on the job just three months, but he’s already making an impression on the city and its police department.
“I think of it in terms of a ‘community informed’ vs. a ‘community uninformed,’” he told participants at Wednesday’s community needs forum at the Nazareth Motherhouse. “I believe in a community informed.”
The new chief then spent half an hour explaining to the engrossed crowd some changes he’s making and how he views Concordia.
The first of those changes is about ensuring that Concordia residents have information readily available about crime in the city and what the police department is doing about it. “That’s why I have a working relationship with the media,” Edin said, “and we’ll use the Internet and have a Facebook page. I don’t ‘tweet’ yet, but we’ll use Twitter, too.”
As a first step, the department now has a web page — www.concordiapolice.com — which Edin said is “a work in progress, but it’s up.”
He also wants to reach out to people in the community, in much the same way he did during his 18 years with the Thurston County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Office, where until leaving for the Concordia position he was a patrol supervisor-sergeant.
Thurston County, which includes the state capital of Olympia and lies just south of Seattle and Tacoma on Interstate 5, has a population of roughly 250,000. And while Concordia is just 1/50th of that size, it faces many of the same challenges, Edin said. He then cited out some issues that he has already seen here:
• “We have a domestic violence problem here in Concordia, and it’s bigger than you think,” he told the 40 residents at the lunch meeting. “We have to address that.” He said he is putting together a task force and will work toward intervention and education, “but that all takes time.”
• “There are drugs here,” he said bluntly. “That’s about a ‘community informed.’ It’s not new, but it may seem like it to you.” He said U.S. Highway 81 is a “drug transportation alley — you can take it from the Mexican border straight through to Canada.” Nationwide, he said, in study after study, illegal drugs and drug abuse have been shown to be “the cause of 90 to 95 percent of all other crime.”
• In Concordia, the police departments volunteer programs — including the adult reserves and the youth Explorers — “have fizzled away.” He is particularly interested in re-energizing the Explorers for teens who want to learn more about law enforcement.
In one very bright spot in his short time here, Edin noted all the ways kids can be active in the community. Ticking off a range of sports and other activities his own two children are taking part in, he said, “Kids who are involved are less likely to get in trouble.”
Making sure those kinds of activities exist is part of the community’s responsibility, he said.
He also emphasized that helping the police is another part of the community’s responsibility.
“We will aggressively enforce the laws here,” Edin said of the city’s police force, “but we need the community to help. If you don’t call when you hear the next-door neighbor beating his wife or a mom screaming at her kids, we can’t help. We aren’t proactive; we are totally reactive. You have to get involved, you have to be willing to call.”
A case earlier this month in which a Concordia woman was charged with mistreating dogs came from a concerned neighbor who called the police, Edin said. “Without that call, we probably would never have known about it.”
Other reports detail services for the poor
Forty people from throughout Concordia showed up Wednesday to learn more about services available to the poor and those hard hit by the economy.
It was the latest in a series of “working lunches” at the Nazareth Motherhouse and part of the Community Needs Forum organized by the Sisters of St. Joseph in January 2009. This was the 11th meeting designed to identify challenges in the community and work together on solutions.
Those presenting information Wednesday included:
• Jen Warkentin of Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Cloud County, who discussed the need for adult volunteers to match with children waiting for “Bigs.” Her agency now serves children in Cloud, Republic and Mitchell counties, and together there are 23 “community-based” (or adult) matches of a “Big” with a child. During the school year, the number of matches will increase to 75 to 90 when high school students match with younger children.
“There are only 10 on the waiting list right now,” Warkentin said, “but that’s because a lot of them drop off. They may be on it for up to three years, and they just get tired of waiting for a Big.”
She urged anyone interested to contact her office in Concordia — at 243-1620 — to find out more. Noting that 80 percent of the children in her program are from single-parent homes and 70 percent live below the poverty level, Warkentin said, “This teaches kids what else is out there, just by doing what you already do — fixing a meal, playing games, raking leaves. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s a huge deal for these kids.”
• Rose Koerber from Cloud County Medical Center, who explained the hospital’s Charity Care program. “No one is refused care,” Koerber told the group as she outlined the structure for helping people without adequate insurance cover their medical bills. In 2009, she noted that the hospital provided nearly $146,000 in free care under the program.
• Susan LeDuc of the Helping Hands program at Manna House of Prayer, who said that in the past year her she has seen “more new people, people who didn’t need help before.” Helping Hands provides a wide range of emergency help, including arranging a place to stay overnight, money for gas and emergency food. She estimated that about 30 families a month receive some assistance through Helping Hands.
• Karen Hauser of Catholic Charities of the Salina Diocese, which includes Concordia, said her office is working to “fill the gap” left when social worker Husch Hathorne moved away early this year. She is also hoping to place an AmeriCorps worker in the Concordia office, and to train that person to assist those needing help here.
The next “working lunch” is scheduled for Aug. 4, from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Motherhouse. Anyone interested in working on Concordia’s challenges is urged to attend; you do not have to have been involved in the process before to join now.
For information on that session or details about the community needs forum, contact Sister Jean Rosemarynoski at 243-2149 or firstname.lastname@example.org.