Downtown anticipates police presence

Police still have another month to go before they open for business in the downtown contact station, but Teri DeSilva, Ashland's downtown officer, was ready long ago.

DeSilva said she's been looking for the ideal location since she began patrolling the city center almost 10 years ago.

"I tried to find places for us to fit in, and it never worked out," she said. "I see us being here for a long, long time. It's just a perfect location."

Now when she visits the station, just across the street from city hall, nearly every local who passes the storefront gives her a wave and asks for an update.

Police took possession of the building, previously occupied by The Adventure Center, on March — and expect it to open in early May, complete with a grand opening community celebration.

Once open, the station will provide a place for both citizens and officers to file reports, get information or just take a break.

DeSilva's desk will overlook the plaza, giving her instant access to the community.

"Unfortunately there are many things that bring you back to the station, so it pulls you away from downtown," she said regarding the current situation.

The new station will be much more community-oriented, DeSilva said, even serving as a location for neighborhood meetings the police department plans to start soon.

Local business owners were also happy with their new neighbors.

"I'm very supportive of having a substation downtown, not only for the safety issues but just to give the community downtown easier access to the police," said Nathan Ruff, owner of Water Street Caf&

233;, which shares a parking lot with the station.

Ruff said he will especially appreciate the presence during high-traffic events, such as Halloween and New Year's Eve.

"I can rest easy at night and not have to worry about people coming here and trashing our place," he said.

Jamie North, the owner of Mix Sweet Shop, said she felt safer with a police presence across the street.

"I think it's a good thing for just keeping an eye on what's happening downtown and for safety late at night."

DeSilva said the mission of the station extends beyond crime prevention.

"It goes without saying that it's going to be a deterrent for bad behavior downtown," she said. "In the works of all of this, that has become second to what we're going to offer to everyone here."

In the long run, the station should make it easier for officers to spend time around the plaza, especially on foot, DeSilva said. DeSilva will also run the summer park patrol from the new station. And when she retires in a few years, she expects the position will be so desirable, officers will have to fight to take her place.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .

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