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'We’re here to help’: Martinsville police officers start COVID-19 community walks

‘Community policing; it was real nice’

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The coronavirus has many people struggling right now, whether it’s socially, financially or in respect to their health. In response, some Martinsville police officers are taking time to check on people in their community.

On bikes and on foot, Martinsville police officers spent time talking to residents in the Academy Place neighborhood Thursday morning.

“It was great to see the officers out patrolling this street to see that everybody’s safe,” said Oddessie Gill, who lives on Third Street. "We know that everybody’s in an uproar about how they’re going to survive and all that.”

Chief Eddie Cassady said this is an extension of the work neighborhood resource officers have already been doing.

“With the virus being the way it is, and with social distancing, we didn’t want folks to feel uncomfortable and we didn’t want to send officers up to homes just knocking on doors and closing that gap. So we felt like, ‘Let’s just go to certain neighborhoods throughout the city.’ We’re going to try to do as many as we can," said Cassady. "Just let folks know we are here, we’re here to help.”

The officers did more than just talk though, stopping to help a man work on his chainsaw.

“I always call them Martinsville’s finest. It’s good to show a little courtesy in the community. I thought it was real nice. That’s the first time I’ve seen that,” Lawrence Swanson said after the officers helped him work on his chainsaw. "My Christian brother here was telling me what it was. I didn’t know what it was. I thought they were just going to walk on by. Community policing; it was real nice.”

A small gesture, perhaps, but one that is certain to have a big impact in an uncertain time.

The police department plans to do at least one walk a week, weather permitting.