Garbage men keep an eye out to help police
FAIRFIELD — Working in alleys and places less traveled at odd hours gives garbage workers a unique view of the city.
They also know what looks normal in a neighborhood and often blend into the surroundings. That’s why the Fairfield Police Department has teamed up with Republic Services for the “We are Looking Out for You” campaign.
Drivers have been encouraged to call in and report suspicious activity. Although the partnership hasn’t led to any direct arrests in the first month or so, it’s another way for Republic to help improve the city it serves, said Division Manager Tony Cincotta.
“We want to partner with the community we service,” Cincotta said. “It just makes sense. We’re out there anyway.”
Cincotta said City Manager Sean Quinn discussed the idea to team police with garbage collectors in the past and the two sides finally made it happen. He said the department sent an employee to help train the drivers in what to look for and even how to be better witnesses.
“If something is out of place, a driver is going to be the one who knows it,” Cincotta said. “Our drivers know their customers. And a lot of people already think we are city workers.”
Police Chief Walt Tibbet said teaming with Republic is yet another way the city has upped its community policing. He said that term gets thrown around, but his department is serious about engaging the public to help police keep a handle on crime and violence. Tibbet said the effort goes beyond just meeting with residents and discussing problems.
“It’s about empowering neighborhoods. You need street teams to deal with street crimes,” Tibbet said. “I’m just really thankful for a community to put their faith in us.”
Drivers will pay attention in residential neighborhoods and around businesses. Michael Vannoy said his truck takes him to places that police may not get to. He said the hours he works makes him the only person moving on the block at some points.
“We see it all. The homeless, the hookers. We’re in those alleys,” Vannoy said. “You need extra eyes on the road.”
Vannoy said some of the things he looks for are people acting suspiciously. He said he takes mental notes of altercations in case anything comes of them. He said the trucks are so common in areas that people ignore them.
“You just learn as you go,” he said. “They don’t tend to see or realize that we are there.”
Cincotta said having a good relationship with the police also helps as Republic Services is often the victim of people who steal recyclables from containers.