If any township residents were concerned by the large police presence at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Oak Ridge today … relax! There was no heist, no public disturbance, no uproarious fracas. It was just several dozen locals and cops having a cup of Joe and maybe a donut or two. And, yes, a whole lot of kids enjoying a day off from school.

The activity at Dunkin’ was pure ‘community,’ hallmark of the Jefferson Township Police Department.

Coffee with a Cop – a nationwide program that supports police and community interaction in a social, coffee shop environment – was a ‘first’ for Jefferson. But it won’t be a ‘last.’ Seen as yet another way the local force can connect with residents, three more coffee events are planned for the very near future, Police Chief Bill Craig told The Jefferson Chronicle. He noted that coffees will be held in different sections of the township in December, January and February.

Launched on the West Coast some six years ago, the Coffee with a Cop idea has spread to all 50 states, and is widening its scope globally. Officer ‘Coffee Joe’ Kratzel told The Chronicle the event is another way to communicate and interface with residents of the township.

Consistent communication and interaction with the community a police force serves are vital in keeping up with changing dynamics within the community itself, he stressed. “It’s all about community relations,” Kratzel noted, adding that the interaction with township residents provides the input needed to understand exactly how residents need to be served by the force.

“Law enforcement has to adapt to the community,” Chief Craig said.

Looking around the crowded donut shop, and observing officers engaged in lively conversation with residents and their kids, department members agreed this new program was off to a good start. “Things like this,” an officer told The Chronicle, “will help us be even more responsive to our community. More in touch with the needs of residents. We are here, listening.”

Indeed, this new event is likely bound for the already robust list of the department’s positive community involvement programs and projects. Evolving from a century old tradition, Coffee with a Cop is bringing a whole new meaning to the ‘coffee klatch’ custom, which also brought neighbors together for conversation and sharing.

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Maria Weiskott is a Jefferson Township resident and a forty year veteran of the publishing profession. An award-winning journalist and editor, she served in top managerial positions at numerous business-to- business newspapers and magazines including Reed Elsevier and Fairchild Publications. Early in her career she operated a local newspaper in the Passaic Valley towns of Little Falls, Totowa and the former West Paterson. Following retirement, she launched a “ghostblogging” service that provides social networking update and blogging services for small and medium sized businesses. Maria travels widely with her husband and is a passionate photographer. She can be reached at maria.weiskott@thejeffersonchronicle.com.