A few months ago, as we had just wrapped up the holiday season and were in the midst of winter, I began a feature in “the Amesbury Beat” called “Flashback.” The paragraph or two each week was a reflection of happenings during my tenure as Crime Prevention Officer. I began with 2018 and this week, the countdown comes to an end as we reach 1996; now I know how Casey Kasem felt. It was the year of the summer Olympics in Atlanta, the internet was growing, Independence Day was a hit at the box office, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion were chart toppers and Bill Clinton was president.

Early in 1996, Sgt. Dan Cleary and I travelled to Quincy and attended a program sponsored by the Massachusetts Crime Watch Commission on community policing. The commission was seeking to improve relationships between police agencies and the cities and towns they served. They provided suggestions and offered additional training, including a two-week course hosted by the Burlington Police Department that spring, which I attended. When I returned, I sat with Acting Chief Gary Ingham who gave his blessing and allowed me to get some new programs going. Within a few weeks, new programs began with Dick Bowley at the Senior Center, with Chuck Gouin at the Fire Department, numerous neighborhoods and even State agencies. We participated in The National Night Out, expanded the DARE effort and appeared throughout the community to publicize the arrival of 9-1-1 in the area.

My most memorable program was the launching of a weekly newspaper column on July 12th. Amesbury News editor Donna Greene was looking for new features in the paper and I was looking for a way to get crime prevention material and safety tips to the public. “Watchwords” became a weekly way to let residents know about new services offered by the department, community happenings and crime trends we were investigating. Fortunately, I had quite a supply of topics to choose from and write about, as there always seemed to be something going on.

The column continued each week until the Amesbury News ceased publication as 2013 came to a close. Although I thought my newspaper days were coming to an end, I was contacted by Daily News editor John Macone who invited me to join The Daily News team. It was like getting called up to the major leagues, as The Daily News had a much larger audience. I was certainly excited and appreciated the opportunity to continue our weekly community policing service.

Over the years, I’ve been able to provide crime prevention material, safety tips, information about programs, tributes to community members and so much more. It’s helped support community initiatives like Grad Night, the Relay For Life and Fill A Cruiser Food Drive. The Amesbury Beat & Watchwords enabled the police department to make our communities safer and better places. I hope some of my material has helped to prevent residents from becoming victims of a crime, made you think a little more about staying safe and enhanced community and charitable efforts. I’ll be continuing the column until early August and will have some exciting news about the future of The Amesbury Beat soon. I consider this weekly column to be one of our most important community policing efforts and sincerely thank the staff at The Daily News for providing space each week. It takes a team effort to make our cities and towns safer and better places; since 1996 the Amesbury News and The Daily News have been a vital part of the effort. The public still relies on newspapers to deliver local news each day so providing space as a community service truly helps us protect and serve the public.

Officer Tom Hanshaw is the crime prevention officer for the Amesbury Police Department.