2 Collingswood Officers Get Closer To Their Beats - On Foot The Foot Patrols Are Popular With Merchants And Residents.

Posted: July 11, 1993

About 15 youngsters surrounded the lone police officer one recent summer night and took turns beating hard on his chest. Then they grabbed his handcuffs, night stick and two-way radio.

But Officer Eddie Correll, one of Collingswood's newest police recruits, was not alarmed. After all, he explained, he had invited the children to gather around him to hear the echo of the bulletproof vest he wore as he strolled through their neighborhoods seeking criminals and friends alike. Correll had also allowed the youths to touch his equipment - except for his gun.

"We want people to come to us rather than run from us," said Correll, citing one reason the Collingswood Police Department decided to resurrect foot patrols after 35 years.

"What we do is get out and talk to people, and that brings the department closer to the community," he said as he walked his beat on the shady streets of West Collingswood one muggy night.

"Hi, Eddie," mothers, fathers, children and other townsfolk yelled to Correll from their stoops as he made his rounds through the Eldridge Garden Apartments. "One night I took a bunch of kids up to get ice cream," he said, shedding some light on his popularity.

Correll, 25, and his friend, Officer Michael Taulane, 21, both longtime Collingswood residents, were hired June 1 to walk the nearly two-square-mile borough from 4 p.m. to midnight. The rest of the 25-member police force patrol in cars.

But Chief John Spavlik said he was so pleased with the foot patrol that he planned to expand it - if and when money became available. "It's unbelievable that after 35 years, foot patrols have regained their popularity and effectiveness," he said.

"We instituted foot patrols because the department was isolated from the community. . . . We wanted to better understand the problems of the people here and to gain their trust so they can help us combat crime," Spavlik said.

The chief is not the only one excited about the old-fashioned form of patrolling. Grocery-store owner Stan Leibowitz said he and other business owners welcomed the new addition to the force.

"The foot patrols give us a presence we feel we needed. Our customers love it; they say they feel safer on the street. The girls working here also feel safer, too," Leibowitz said.

Taulane, who walks the beat in the eastern section of the borough, where the main business district lies, said he, too, had gotten a good response from business owners and residents: "I'd be walking down Maple Avenue, it's pitch dark, and people would come out of their houses to say they feel so much better seeing us here."

"Hey, boys, be careful when crossing the street," he warned two youths who rode their bikes haphazardly across busy Haddon Avenue that night.

Taulane makes sure stores are locked and no windows are broken. Then he walks through the schoolyards and asks teenagers who might be hanging out to move on. Many of the youths know him, he said, because he coaches football and wrestling at the high school.

But the community relations aspect is not the only plus to the foot patrols. Taulane said he already had made arrests, including the apprehension of four juveniles on drug charges.

"You'd be surprised how much more you can catch when you're on foot rather than in a police car. When people see a patrol car coming, they run," he said.

Like Taulane, Correll said he always wanted to be a police officer. In fact, he said he joined the Marine Corps five years ago to help him land a job as an officer. In the Marines, he was a military policeman assigned to protecting former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

But Correll said he loves his current job best. "You get to see everything, you help people, and I love it. This is the most rewarding thing in the world," he said.

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