Children in Robbinsville are trying to collect ‘em all this summer, but what they’re after aren’t Pokemon.
The Robbinsville Police Department launched a set of police officer trading cards last month. All 28 officers, including K-9 Quori, have had cards available since Aug. 2. Everyone is encouraged to collect the cards, but for the first five participants aged 17 and younger to collect all 28 cards win a $20 Fulton Bank Visa Gift Card.
Sgt. Thomas Egan, who organized the program, said he hopes the trading cards will encourage children to get to know their local police officers and feel more comfortable around them.
“We feel that the baseball cards can act as a tool to break the ice between the children and the officers,” Egan said.
The trading cards have the format of traditional baseball cards and include a name, photo and short bio written by each officer. Each police officer also included a personal message or quote that inspires him or her.
Nabbing a trading card does not have to mean waiting until the next community event. Officers have permission from Everson’s Karate on Route 33 to drop by classes so children can collect some cards. Egan said he recently stopped by a lemonade stand to chat with the children and hand out his trading card. In other words, through the cards, officers are encouraged to reach out and meet children just as much as the kids are encouraged to do the same.
“It’s twofold, quite honestly,” Egan said. “Everybody loves it.”
In other towns, there tends to be a sponsor that pays for the trading cards. Though there are advertisements of local businesses on the backs of the RPD cards, the shops and restaurants are not the sponsors. Instead, the Police Benevolent Association paid for the cards and conversely sponsored businesses that have continually supported the Robbinsville Police Department by including the advertisements as a thank you.
This is certainly not the first time the police have run a community-outreach program. This past July, the Youth Police Academy debuted for rising middle-schoolers. The week-long program included training in CPR, first aid, fire extinguisher use, and self-defense and education in fitness, nutrition, bicycle safety, and DWI awareness, as well as a class trip to the New Jersey Police Museum in West Trenton. At least two dozen children attended and the program was met with so much positive feedback that Egan expects it will not only continue next summer but will include many more participants.
Adult civilians have their own programs to aid them in being more connected to the police dept. One is Coffee with a Cop, which has been going strong for about a year and a half. It is an informal way for residents to meet their local police officers and bring to attention any concerns they may have, such as traffic complaints or suspicious neighborhood activity.
Another way police officers assist residents is through Operation Reassurance. Offered to the elderly and the sick who live alone, participants call the police station every morning. If a call is not received by 10 a.m., an officer is dispatched to check on the participant in case of a fall or other emergency. Operation Reassurance includes at least 10 participants.
“We’re very community-oriented here in Robbinsville,” Egan said.