Police substation a nonstory

There is nothing to see here. Go back to your homes.

Ashland Police Department's plans to open a new substation downtown is the biggest nonstory of the year.

Plans for the APD to operate a substation on the Plaza are certainly not new. What is new is the modest funding to start the substation ($4,000), not to mention a new chief that thinks it's a pretty good idea.

So the idea is most likely to become a reality, though the City Council will still bat the issue around like whiffle ball in July.

They shouldn't bother. The debate will be like swinging at a pitch in the dirt: fruitless.

There is no controversy about a police substation on the Plaza, unless we simply want to create one. The only potential for controversy is if a more visible police presence leads to more aggressive confrontations between police and people. But one really doesn't have to do with the other.

Police don't need to open a storefront to announce they are open for business with a determination to chase certain unwanted people out of town. If that were the goal, it would be more prudent to simply do it, without ever taking on a more public presence. A new substation will increase the spotlight on police and their interactions with people.

The reality is a police substation in the most populated part of town makes sense. It will put more police downtown, closer to the action &

and granted, I use the term "action" loosely here. It will allow officers to walk their beats and walk to the office to do their police chores; rather than drive in and out and around the Plaza, downtown and Lithia Park.

A story in the Boston Globe earlier this week reported on the rapid decline of crime in five neighborhoods &

including the tourist area of Downtown Crossing &

where police changed their tactics, from driving to walking. The walking beats increased interpersonal contact between the police and the people in the neighborhood. The police officers became more connected and knowledgeable, and the net result was less crime.

A police substation in Ashland will likewise increase the one-to-one connection between police officers and the many different people who use the Plaza regularly, such as employees, tourists, high school kids and transients. That regular connection is a foundational principle of community policing, something our city leadership says it is committed to. If that presence makes those outside the law less comfortable, well it may subtly help to push them on their way.

Despite all the talk about the APD becoming a bastion for community policing, there are a few specific things one could point at and applaud the progress. This substation has the potential to be just that.

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