BROOKFIELD, Conn. — James Purcell, a veteran officer with 33 years on the force and Brookfield’s new chief, said people shouldn’t feel intimidated by police officers.
“If an officer is in uniform, it means he’s working. If you have a question, you should feel comfortable approaching him," said Purcell, who took over as chief in January, replacing Robin Montgomery who held the position for 16 years.
Purcell has been with the Brookfield Police Department for 33 years, rising up the ranks. He came in as a patrolman in 1983, became sergeant in 1989 and major in 2001.
He said he's satisfied in his new position. “It is the ultimate position within the agency." There are 34 sworn officers on the force.
One of his main concerns since taking over has been the increase in car thefts. “Over the last six months, there has been a rash of stolen vehicles and cars in the middle of the night — this is not just in Brookfield but in all the surrounding towns."
"The people who stole these cars are from the Meriden and Waterbury area," he said. "They go into unlocked cars where the owners left the keys inside, and either take the car or steal items from the car."
"We lost four cars one night, and multiple cars were broken into. Seven cars were stolen over the past three months. This is a huge number for Brookfield," he said.
To prevent being a victim to this crime, Purcell advises removing your keys when leaving the car and never leaving valuables in plain view.
Another concern is speeding. And as the weather gets warmer, drivers should expect cyclists and runners alongside them on the roads.
“As people move outside and start to bicycle, walk or run, be considerate. Keep speeds at a reasonable rate and act accordingly. Always yield to pedestrians," he said.
Police are involved in ongoing efforts to crack down texting while driving, Purcell said.
In April, Brookfield will be participating in a High Visibility Distracted Driving Enforcement campaign. “We will have patrols out on the roads, concentrating on people who are texting and driving, and we will ticket them," he said.
The town's officers are also striving to become more engaged with the community through their “Coffee with a Cop” program.
“This is a forum that we hold every few months where people can come in and sit down with one of our patrol officers, have a cup of coffee and talk about any concerns they may have," he said.
Purcell said he likes the small-town feeling of Brookfield. “You get to know people a little more intimately here than in a bigger city. You develop relationships here.
"When you go shopping, you run into the people you know — that’s the beauty of a small town."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.