AUBURN — The waiter who poured Roger and Rita Poulin's coffee Tuesday morning at Rolly's Diner wasn't their regular server. In fact, he didn't even work at the popular New Auburn restaurant.
For two hours, local police officers carried carafes of coffee from table to table, offering refills and lending an ear to patrons eager to vent over traffic concerns or crime in their city.
It was the first of what police hope will become a quarterly event called Coffee with a Cop. The concept was hatched in Los Angeles and has spread eastward. Police in New Hampshire have been hosting Coffee with Cops for a while and found it breaks down barriers between police and the people they protect.
“That's the goal,” said Sgt. Barry Schmieks, who is overseeing efforts in this city. “The more we do this, the more comfortable we hope people will be in approaching us about problems.”
The Poulins, seated at a corner table, told Lt. Timothy Cougle that speeding motorists on Minot Avenue, where they've lived for 65 years, is a major concern of theirs.
Cougle said his department has just hired two patrol officers whose job will be to monitor traffic throughout the city. They'll be paying close attention to Minot Avenue, Cougle assured the couple.
“If you come by, toot your horn,” Rita Poulin said as she left the restaurant.
Larry Pelletier, a New Auburn resident, chatted with Deputy Chief Jason Moen over breakfast.
Pelletier shared his concerns about vacant buildings on Second Street. Vandals pulled copper pipes and wiring from one of the buildings, he said. The same thing happened to another building on South Main Street, he told Moen.
Moen told Pelletier the vandalism is largely drug driven, but police are watching the buildings as often as they can.
“I try to be as observant as I can,” said Pelletier, who walks the area every day and has been a resident since 1982. “How they can do that without someone seeing them is disconcerting.”
Despite the empty buildings, Pelletier said, “This is a pretty safe community."
He praised the local police for wanting to have better lines of communication with people in the community.
“I think it's great,” he said. “It makes it feel more like a close-knit community.”