TRUMBULL — School resource officers have demonstrated the benefit of having a familiar face assigned to establish relationships and prevent crime on school property, according to Police Chief Michael Lombardo.

Now, the department is looking to expand that concept to retail, with police planning to have a full-time officer assigned to the Westfield Trumbull mall starting next year.

“We want to be able to assign someone to patrol, full-time, eight hours a day at the mall,” Lombardo said. “We already have a substation there, and that will be the officer’s office, and welcome area.”

Currently police conduct regular patrols of the mall as part of the routine beat in the southern area of Main Street. The change, Lombardo said, is that the mall officer will be a constant presence at the mall and will be the same officer.

“Having a dedicated, daily presence there will build relationships with the businesses, employees and visitors,” Lombardo said. For example, Lombardo said, the mall officer could address parking and pedestrian issues, or head off potential conflict for a retailer whose store was near an area where people tended to congregate and restrict access to the shop.

The new officer will be funded through the U.S. Justice Department’s Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) grant. This is the same program that provided the initial funding for the SRO program, First Selectman Vicki Tesoro said.

“Having an officer at the mall full time is a very good idea,” Tesoro said. “This is one of the community policing initiatives that Chief Lombardo believes in and we support.”

The grant will provide $125,000 in funding to cover the salary and benefits of a new police officer as of July 1, 2021. The additional officer will allow the department to assign one person to full-time mall duty.

Once the grant funds are exhausted, the new officer will be paid through the normal police budget, but Lombardo said the new hire will have a minimal effect on the bottom line.

“This will expand our roster by one,” he said. “Currently, we have an authorized limit of 81 officers, so this would put us up to 82.”

But the time it takes to hire and train a new officer means the department rarely operates at full-strength. Lombardo said there are currently 78 officers on the job, with two more in training at the police academy.

Should the planned Residences at Main open in 2022, Lombardo said they would not be part of the mall officer’s beat.

Tesoro said the new program was an example of the daily commitment the Trumbull police make to the community.

“They do an outstanding job and are always looking for new ways to support our community and keep us safe,” s

“The Trumbull Police Department is dedicated to evolving to meet the needs of the community. I would also like to thank our First Selectman for her support and the Department of Justice COPS Office. These grants were very competitive this year,” stated Chief of Police Michael Lombardo.