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Who are East Lansing's Neighborhood Resource Specialists?

October 12, 2023
East Lansing Police Department Neighborhood Resource Specialist vehicle at the East Lansing Police Department on Oct. 11, 2023.
East Lansing Police Department Neighborhood Resource Specialist vehicle at the East Lansing Police Department on Oct. 11, 2023. —
Photo by Sloane Barlow | The State News

Some East Lansing community members have been puzzled by the cars driving around, resembling a police car, but instead citing the name, Neighborhood Resource Specialists, on the side of the car. Some have possibly never heard of this community engagement team before.

Biology freshman Megan Vanloozen and civil engineering sophomore Kylie Camman didn’t even know of the Neighborhood Resource Specialists that have been as aspect of town since December 2020

Lieutenant Kristine Khoury with the East Lansing Police Department and part of the Community Engagement team said that the "specialists deal with quality of life issues" and covers topics that may not rise to the need of law enforcement intervention

The specialist team consists of one full-time employee and two part-time employees, working alongside both lieutenants and social workers.

The city of East Lansing cites that the specialists can aid in situations including providing "support services to community members who may be struggling with a mental health crisis, substance abuse, housing instability or traumas, such as sexual or physical assault," according to their website.

Some examples of this that Khoury cited include a dispute between neighbors over their dog going to the bathroom on the other's lawn or a consistent noise issue

Their responsibilities don’t end at quality of life issues; they also go further to take on important community engagement roles with the East Lansing Police Department.

Khoury said, “to be in the community, actively engaging and meeting some of the residents,” is an important part of the Neighborhood Resource Specialists.

Some events hosted include an open house at the police department, National Night Out, which includes a collaboration with the library and law enforcement and Faith in Blue, which included a coat donation, donation distribution and a pizza party

“I believe that it definitely frees up some of the resources from our sworn officers," Alicia Southern, one of the specialists said.

Southern said some benefits of the team included freeing up resources from sworn officers and making community engagement more frequent because they are a smaller department.

"We can engage with the community and make the department more accessible," Southern said

The Neighborhood Resource Specialists are the dispatch to low priority calls for service. Southern said that when they do sector patrol, which is patrolling the downtown area, the team is able to engage with the community and go to things such as a lemonade stand that they might come across. 

Another benefit Southern mentioned was the Neighborhood Resource Specialists are able to check in with some of the businesses, encouraging connection between commerce and the cops as well as writing a monthly newsletter to engage with the community. 

Camman, after learning a little about the team, said neutralizing these conflicts can be a lot with "such a big college" to handle, seeing the benefits of having these resources.  

Vanloozen said she feels the smaller disputes would be better handled by the specialists that the police wouldn’t have the time to handle

Camman and Vanloozen both found ways that the Neighborhood Resource Specialists benefited the East Lansing community even without prior knowledge of the department

“It's a valued resource that we’re able to share with the community," Khoury said. "We’re proud of the program.”

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