PUNXSTUAWNEY — The Punxsutawney Police Department is focused on not only protecting residents of its community, but on connecting with them.
Chief Matt Conrad said the department has the largest staff in Jefferson County, with about 16 officers total in midsummer this year.
Officers focus on protecting and patrolling, but also on getting to know people and gaining their trust through building strong community relations, Conrad said.
“We try to get out and talk to community members as much as possible,” he said.
Conrad said members of the department aim to act as not only law enforcement, but trustworthy role models for local youth.
One example of that is their hosting “National Night Out” — an anti-drug and crime event that brings emergency personnel, organizations and local people together. It also allows the officers to interact with local children and make them comfortable with police.
Officers also distribute educational pamphlets and materials to area schools.
The PPD considers community interaction to be a crucial part of fighting crime, and welcomes input on how to resolve and identify those problems.
The Punxsutawney area sees its share of drugs and crime, Conrad said, but not significantly more than any other area. Awareness and police presence and involvement are key to keeping it under control, he said.
The department recently was able to purchase a license plate reader with grant money, and a camera system, which not a lot of area departments have, Conrad said.
September will mark Conrad’s second year as chief.
Conrad, a Punxsutawney native, is married and has two children. He said he is grateful to be back where he grew up, working and raising his family there.
Prior to his role as chief, Conrad was on active duty in the U.S. Army, where he was on a Sniper team. He is now in the Army reserves.
Many of the things the Army taught him have helped him as a police officer, he said, such as the leadership and teamwork skills he acquired.
For more information, visit www.punxsutawney.com and click “emergency services” or call 814-938-6220.