Mount Pleasant police Officer Nicole Schiro has only been the Lakeside/east side’s COP officer for a little over 18 months, but the difference she sees in the neighborhood is remarkable.
“Residents trust law enforcement more, and there’s a real connection between the officers who patrol here and the neighbors,” Schiro said. “Two years ago, that didn’t exist.”
Schiro is her department’s first official Community Policing Officer, and has only recently been operating out of an official office: the new COP house in the 2200 block of Mead Street. The house is not officially open yet, but construction is complete, and programming for kids and Neighborhood Watch will begin soon.
Some of the biggest change is evident in the way area children relate to Schiro and other officers who patrol the neighborhood.
“The kids around here know Nicole and they’re excited about the programs we’ll have here,” said Paula Huck of Wells Brothers Pizza. “The kids call her Officer Nicole.”
But what neighborhood children are really looking forward to is the addition of a playground across the street from the COP house where a vacant building now sits. Made possible with a $275,000 grant from SC Johnson, the playground is expected to break ground in a few weeks and be ready in time for the summer.
“Kids around here are so excited for the playground,” Schiro noted. “I mean, can you blame them? Look around; there’s nowhere for them to play.”
Huck is helping Schiro plan activities at the house for children and plans to be part of the Neighborhood Watch effort there, too.
Last summer Schiro organized the first neighborhood clean-up. She went door-to-door talking to residents to recruit them, and her enthusiasm was contagious; more than 100 people turned out.
Jerry Walker, Sheree Brownlee and their kids were part of the effort, and Walker said Schiro’s attitude is contagious.
“People around here are always willing to help out but Officer Schiro is really positive and wants as many people as possible,” he said as the clean-up was winding down.
Huck said residents contact her, asking how they can get in touch with Schiro and how they can help continue making things better.
“There’s a lot still to overcome around here because it’s been a long time, but people are getting to know Nicole,” she continued. “Things have come a long way in a short amount of time.”
Schiro said a big part of implementing positive change is improving the aesthetics of the neighborhood. Mount Pleasant officials recently approved razing a home in the 2100 block of Mead Street, a story in The Journal Times reads, and Schiro said she’s heard from people who are really tired of the eyesores.
“Neighbors worry about safety because abandoned properties attract bad elements,” she added. “And we’ll do another clean-up, and we’ll keep repeating all the things we say and all the positive things we do because it’s about repetition and being present.”