By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Riding on a mountain bike with a yellow shirt and dispatch radio, Tom Kane makes himself visible at Norton Park several days a week.
As he makes his way around the park Thursday through Saturday, Kane greets park visitors, assisting them with directions or even medical help in emergency situations. He also monitors all activities at the park, including suspicious or unlawful ones.
Currently, a criminal justice student at Central Connecticut State University, Kane works part-time as a civilian patrol officer at Norton Park—an initiative overseen by the Plainville Police Department.
“I’m here to make the experience of the park better for patrons,” said Kane, who hopes to make connections with the community.
With the hope of becoming a police officer one day, Kane said the job was the right fit for him.
“It seemed like a perfect fit,” said Kane, who will intern for the Plainville Police Department this fall. “The experience I’m gaining through this is unreal.”
Plainville Chief of Police Matthew Catania said the goal of this initiative overall is to enhance visitors’ experiences at Norton Park. Kane also handles parking tickets and town ordinance tickets, and checks in frequently with the on-duty patrol officer assigned to the Norton Park district.
“We’re just looking to keep the park enjoyable for everyone,” said Catania.
“We can’t be everywhere all the time. Having a part-time employee is a lot more cost effective for the town,” said Plainville Sergeant John Quilter, who called Kane a great communicator. “Even though he’s not [a sworn officer]…he’s another set of eyes and ears at the park.”
Town Manager Robert Lee recommended this initiative to the police department after complaints were made about visitors violating park rules, such as littering, loud voices and rough play on playscape equipment.
The initiative will continue until the end of the summer, and will be further evaluated, said Lee.
“We decided to hire a temporary park patrol person operating under the supervision of the police department during the busy times at the park,” said Lee, adding that funding for this position comes from the seasonal personnel hired by the town.
Plainville Sergeant Richard Marques, who is assigned to the support services division, oversees the civilian park patrol program and offers guidance to Kane.
“I want him to be visible and approachable, and just tuned into what’s going on,” said Marques, who hopes the initiative will continue depending on how it goes overall.
Although Kane just started the job a couple of weeks ago, so far he has been well-received by park visitors.
“Everybody has been very welcoming,” said Kane, noting how he as come to know folks of all ages who come to the park. “They see me as a person there to help.”