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Stronger connections are forming in the city of Bountiful, Utah between the police force and residents and it’s happening around a barbeque grill.

Each summer, officers partner with neighborhood groups for barbeque parties. It’s a simple, yet effective example of “community policing.”

As the event began, Tom Ross, the Bountiful Police Chief, said “It’s the perfect opportunity for people to see us as their neighbors, their family, their friends. It takes away a little bit of the mystique of the badge and the uniform and they get to see that we’re actually pretty funny, pretty easy to be around and we have the same interests.

This is the police department’s third barbeque this summer for the third year in a row in what’s becoming a great opportunity to make the area a safer place.

Speaking of what’s become a summertime tradition, Chief Ross explained, “They’ve been fantastic. We get booked out a year in advance and everyone one of these people in my office and in the communities have said this is the best thing we could be doing.”

An organized effort to shut down a drug house ultimately brought this particular group together. During the investigation, there was a coordinated effort to gather evidence between neighbors and police.

Chief Ross explained the efficiency of the combined effort. “The residents, when they come together, and they watch out for each other, they are the eyes and ears and they’re the ones that tell us when there’s a problem. And I see that as the best way to keep crime in check.”

Kate Bradshaw, the neighborhood organizer of the Bountiful barbeque, said she “thought it was a great way to give back, to say thanks, and to continue the ‘neighborhood-ness’ that we’d started because of somebody ‘not-great’ and turn it into something that was more positive.”

Community policing is one element of the Department of Justice’s recommendation on 21st Century Policing.

It’s designed to help law enforcement and communities across the nation strengthen trust and collaboration.

Law enforcement agencies in many Utah cities and across the country are finding it difficult to recruit skilled officers. Whether it’s due to low pay and poor benefits, heightened public scrutiny, or increasing community tension, morale in many agencies is down. An event like this can help improve some of those problems little by little by strengthening the bonds that build a healthy community.

Neighbor Josh Knight, who is also the Pastor of Bountiful Heights Church, described the event as a great way to bring all demographics of the community together. “For us, coming from a non-denominational church and getting to be a part of what our neighbors are doing, it means a lot. It’s easy to become comfortable with who your friends are, your circle of friends in your community, but we’re told to love our neighbors, to get out and get to know their stories and their lives and just get to know their families so that we can be there for them, [and] they can be there for us. “It’s important. It’s really important.”

Bradshaw echoed the Pastor’s comment. She said, “Sometimes neighborhoods have a tendency to segregate into their little social groups. This helps break down these groups. It doesn’t matter your church or if you have kids in elementary school or if your kids are grown — you’re getting everybody out to talk about the things that matter to all of us.”

Read more from the Utah League of Cities and Towns.