By Dan Nienaber
---- — MANKATO — Police officers in Mankato and North Mankato are hoping to find enough interest to start a local chapter of a nationwide program that creates partnerships between law enforcement officers and older residents.
An informational meeting about Triad, an organization that started in the 1980s, is scheduled to take place Wednesday afternoon on the third floor of downtown's Public Safety Center. Anyone 55 or older is invited to attend.
If it gets off the ground, the new Mankato group would start out focusing on education about avoiding being a victim of a crime, quality of life, community education and involvement, and ways for law enforcement to improve services for older adults. Once the group is established, those involved will decide what to focus on, said Cmdr. Sandi Schnorenberg of the Mankato Department of Public Safety.
"We will focus on areas seniors want to focus on," she said. "One of our ideas is to have a driving presentation so they can talk about things like how to drive around semis with their blind spots, winter driving and how to properly adjust the seats in their cars."
Bert Marth of New Ulm has been involved with Brown County's Triad organization for about 15 years. She said that group meets monthly, except for the winter months to discuss a variety of issues. She said Mankato organizers will need to get enthusiastic police officers and older adults involved, keep things interesting and not let up once the group gets started.
"The whole key is you have to have law enforcement behind you to be successful," Marth said. "If they're not in your corner, it's going to be tough."
A good start would be getting the Blue Earth and Nicollet county sheriff's departments involved, too, she said.
When Schnorenberg and other officers organized a Senior Citizen Safety Camp in 2005, they tried to find older adults interested in starting a Triad group in Mankato. That didn't happen. This time Schnorenberg attended a statewide Triad conference to get ideas about how to spark interest.
Triad has been a valuable asset in Brown County, said Cmdr. Dave Borchert of the New Ulm Police Department. Officers have been able to keep residents informed, but Triad members also have provided valuable information to police.
He cited one case several years ago where someone recognized waste at a residence that was consistent with someone operating a meth lab. That person wouldn't have known how to identify the waste without attending a presentation that had taken place at a Triad meeting. There also have been other cases where people have made police officers aware of friends who had been victimized by family members or acquaintances but were too embarrassed to report the crimes themselves.
"I think it's an extremely good program because of that partnership we have with them and our ability to help each other," Borchert said. "Things change rapidly."
Mary O'Sullivan, VINE/Summit Center education coordinator in Mankato, said the Department of Public Safety will need to find a way to get people interested in Triad. Presentations about phone and email crimes that have been organized for the Summit Center haven't drawn a lot of people. So Triad will have to be more than that to keep local older adults interested, she said.
"I know we've triad to do a little bit of programming about preventing scams and there hasn't been a lot of interest," O'Sullivan said.
If there is interest in forming a Triad chapter, Schnorenberg said a nonprofit would be started so the group could do fund raising and take donations to cover costs.
Triad information meeting What Providing information about Triad, a nationwide organization that creates partnerships between law enforcement officers and older adults Where Public Safety Center, third floor When 3:30 p.m. Wednesday Who Anyone 55 or older Cost Free