Atlantic City police have formed a Neighborhood Coordination Unit to engage local residents day-to-day about their concerns and problems in the city.

Sgt. Kevin Fair says the 16-member unit's main focus will be to learn the community with "boots on the ground."

"Find out what issues the community members have, whether it's quality of life, some abandoned property ... drug dealing," he said.

"These officers will be get familiar with the community. They are going to be available by phone to the community. They have city-issued cell phones. The residents will get their cell phone numbers and their email addresses."

Building relationships between police officers and the communities they serve is a challenge in some of the nation's most underserved neighborhoods.

Fair says part of the breakdown in Atlantic City has been declining numbers on the force.

"We had more than 400 officers so we were able to do a lot of community interaction," he said. "Unfortunately, over the years the reduction in manpower has left little time or opportunity for the true community engagement that we wanted."

Fair says they recognized that there was what he called a "gap in service," and this unit is designed to fill that gap based on a model from the New York City Police Department.

Twelve officers will work specific Atlantic city wards, two per ward. The remaining four will do community homeless outreach.

"Their main purpose is conflict resolution and help all residents and to be out into the community," he said.

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