Law enforcement usually tries to track down bandits, but a group called the Blue Line Bandits is looking for the police instead.
The group, made up of John H. Peterson of Lewes, Susanne Whitney of Magnolia, Dan Kapitanic of Hockessin, Jennifer Rambo of Milford and Jon Boone of Dover, wants to show their support for the “thin blue line” by painting blue lines at the municipal police stations around the state.
Whitney said they first came up with the idea when a police chief told her that police were hearing about support, but not necessarily seeing it.
“We want them to see it,” she said.
She and other members of the group came up with idea for the blue lines, but wondered about where and how to start.
When Cpl. Keith Heacock of Delmar was killed in the line of duty in April, they knew where to go. They called Delmar chief Ivan E. Barkley who gave them permission to go.
They painted long blue stripes throughout the police department parking lot and then branched out from there.
They painted a line down the street in front of the Georgetown Police Department, and put stripes on doors, sidewalks and stop lines at police departments of Camden, Rehoboth, Lewes and Harrington, so far.
Their goal is to leave a mark at every department in the state.
“Our LEOs risk their lives every day to keep us safe,” wrote Peterson in the group’s newly formed mission statement. “What they do and see daily takes a physical and mental toll on them.”
The statement goes on to say that their group wants the police to know they are not forgotten.
“The painting of the blue lines by the Blue Line Bandits is a way for us to hopefully alleviate some of the mental stress of the hatred and badgering that they see and hear every day…so they can focus on what they do – be our heroes,” the statement said.
In Rehoboth, they put a line of tape on the employee entrance to the department and painted lines at stop signs around the city hall where the police department building is situated.
The idea is to have the officers see and know there is someone thinking about them every time they go out, said Whitney.
The support is appreciated, said Chief Keith Banks of Rehoboth Beach.
“We are appreciative of the fact that several individuals have taken their time to show support for police officers,” said Banks.
Asked what he thought others could do to show support, his answer was simple: “Practice common decency and respect for one another as well as police officers.”
The bandits, who admit their name is a little funny since they ask permission before doing anything, are hoping to expand their efforts in the near future.
The funding for all they do comes from their own pockets and sometimes it takes a bit to coordinate schedules to get the work completed.
Still, the bandits are happy with what they’ve done so far.
“A couple of departments reached out to us,” said Whitney. “That’s always a good feeling for me.”
Anyone interested in joining or supporting the bandits should contact Whitney through her police support organization, “A Walk In Their Shoes,” found on Facebook.
“We have a list of every department and chief in the state,” said Peterson. “Nobody’s turned us down yet.”
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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