Omaha police Officer Michael Coyan enjoys meeting the citizens on his Elkhorn beat. So Tuesday morning's initial “Coffee With a Cop” event proved to be right up his Main Street.
“This was a great idea,” Coyan said. “I've been here for five years now, and I recognize the people and the people recognize me. I think they have grown more accustomed to having OPD out here, and I hope they realize there's been no degradation of service since the annexation (in 2007).”
“Coffee With a Cop” is a national program launched to promote interaction between citizens and their police departments. Bridget Fitzpatrick, a crime prevention specialist with the Omaha Police Department, saw it on Facebook and got approval to try it here.
Several officers from the northwest precinct, which includes the Elkhorn area, chatted with residents for about an hour at the Heartland Cafe, 2615 N. Main St. Capt. Shayna Ray moved about the cafe pouring coffee and answering questions.
“I hope by meeting us they get some names and phone numbers to call if they have any issues,” Ray said. “We want them to feel they can come to us not only with criminal activity or traffic problems but with quality-of-life concerns like who to call about their neighbor who is refusing to mow their lawn.”
Ray said all Omaha citizens can call their police precinct, email the OPD website or call the Mayor's Hotline (402-444-5555).
Elkhorn resident Richard Ayer made a point of coming to the cafe Tuesday to visit with the officers and said he liked what he heard. He wanted to know about the strategy for covering his neighborhood.
“Omaha is moving west and with that comes some problems,” Ayers said. “There are new apartments going up, new people moving in. They told us about the steps they're taking and even what the gang unit is doing.”
Sarah Morgan of Elkhorn and friends Karen Ensminger of the Regency neighborhood and Angela Davidson of Waterloo are horseback-riding enthusiasts who often meet at Heartland Cafe for coffee. The women wondered what was going on when they had trouble parking on Main Street at 8:30 a.m.
After visiting with some of the officers, Morgan pronounced the event “a fantastic idea.” She and her friends like being able to talk to police in a casual environment.
“I think it's a great outreach to provide citizens,” Morgan said.
Cafe owner Sharon Janovsky moved to Elkhorn 25 years ago from the Field Club neighborhood. She jumped at the chance to host the event.
“I said absolutely, I wanted to do this,” Janovsky said. “I definitely think you can see it building relationships between businesses and the people of Elkhorn and the police. We're opening communication.”
The next “Coffee With a Cop” event is scheduled for March 3 at the McDonald's restaurant near 30th Street and Ames Avenue.