SUNRISE — In South Florida, if your drug of choice is pork or beef, you’re in luck.
The Sunrise Police Department is using money recovered in drug stings to add a little zing to the local diet.
Pop-up barbecues are being used as a tool to improve relations with the local community.
“We’re not responding to a problem; we’re trying to get better,” said Police Chief John Brooks. “And even though I think we have a really good relationship with the community, you can always get better.”
The department is using social media to alert citizens when it’s dinnertime.
“It’s amazing to see young kids come up with their mom or dad,” Mayor Robert Voss told the newspaper. “At first, they’re hesitant. And by the end, they’re giving us hugs goodbye.”
Each pop-up barbecue totals roughly $500. The events, which started last year, are a big hit with residents, who rather get something from the grill than get grilled by the police.
“We go through 700 to 800 meals in just two hours,” Voss said. “We’ll fire off a tweet an hour before to let people know, and they’ll show up and call up their friends.”
Mourice “Mo” Hylton, 33, says the initiative is a welcome change in the neighborhood.
“Police were grilling and serving hot dogs and shaking hands and kissing babies,” he said. “They were socializing and having fun with people, not arresting them.”
The next sidewalk cookout is scheduled for Aug. 4 at BJs Wholesale Club, 5100 NW Ninth Ave.
“The patrol officers in our operation division got together and did it one weekend,” Fort Lauderdale Detective Tracy Figone said. “The goal was to interact with the community.”
The impromptu picnics have also led to tips that have helped cops solve crimes, according to Voss.
“A homeowner was beaten and robbed during a home invasion,” Voss said. “He said he knew who we should be looking at. We had nothing to go on. He gave us a name and we gave it to the detective.”