Skip to Content

CPD Community Outreach Unit focuses on new neighborhoods that include Quail Drive

Chelsea Hoeller and her husband and toddler moved to an apartment on Sylvan Lane this past summer and so far, she said the family hasn’t felt the effects of crime in the area.

“I think I kind of live in my little bubble,” she said.

But the crime exists. Since January, Columbia police have responded to the Sylvan Lane area hundreds of times for everything from peace disturbances to shots-fired calls. Just down the road, 24-year-old Gabrielle Rhodes was shot and killed in April 2016 and his murder remains unsolved.

“It doesn’t actually surprise me,” said Hoeller.

She said they’ve heard from other residents about the neighborhood, and points to one particular street “that gets a lot of attention.”

It’s Quail Drive, another street that’s a familiar haunt for Columbia police officers. Since January, they’ve been there more than 300 times. The most recent violent crime police responded to was a shots-fired incident on Oct. 26.

But there’s a new effort in the area to make it safer: officers from the Columbia Police Department’s Community Outreach Unit are now there daily. There are now eight officers on the COU working in four different strategic areas.

“We are contacting people, making sure they have what they need and building that sense of trust and community again,” said Officer Maria Phelps. “If something happens and they do need police, they’ll feel comfortable contacting us again.”

Phelps and her partner, Officer Tony Parker, have been working the new area since July. It’s not just the Sylvan Lane and Quail Drive area. Their boundaries stretch from the Paris Road and Highway 63 corridor to Brown Station Road.

“It’s going to be wherever we are needed,” Phelps said.

Phelps is new to the unit, but has been with the department for several years. Parker was an inaugural member of the unit when it was expanded from Douglass Park Proactive Unit back in 2015. He and Officer Scott Lenger were assigned to an area in north Columbia that included Bodie Drive and Currituck Lane.

Phelps said when she first started as an officer, no one was under the illusion that the area had a safe atmosphere. But since Lenger and Parker were assigned community policing in the area, the crime has calmed.

“You go up there now, it’s nice,” she said. “There’s no trash, kids are playing outside. Crime has gone way down.”

Violent crime on Bodie has decrease significantly. Once a hotbed of shots fired calls, the area hasn’t had one since Jan. 1.

Phelps said she hopes for the same results on Quail Drive and Sylvan Lane. But those changes won’t come right away.

“This isn’t going to happen overnight,” she said. “We’re coming to an area where this is new, It’s a long process.”

Hoeller said that having daily police presence in the area is good, but that’s not what she thinks will really make an impact.

“When I hear the word ‘presence,’ I hear this shadow, but I think it’s the relationships that are what’s really important,” she said. “I think that people have relationships with one another and with their police officers so they can feel who’s serving them is someone who’s in their community and not necessarily above it.”

Phelps said the area is filled with good people and families with “a few people that bring some crime into the neighborhood.”

“We need to figure out who that is and kind of deal with that so that every other person on this street can live in peace,” she said.

The officers hope people will become more comfortable with them and share information that can lead them to find the answers to some unsolved crimes, including the 2016 murder of Rhodes.

“It provides an atmosphere where they’re more likely to speak to us and give us some leads on that,” said Phelps.

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

ABC 17 News Team


ABC 17 News is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content