Known as one of the safest towns in the state, New Canaan was the scene of a midafternoon crime in the center of town last fall that shocked the community.

At about 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, someone took a sledgehammer to the front window of Henry C. Reid & Son, a jewelry store at 72 Elm St., and grabbed three Rolex watches valued at more than $50,000.

The group of suspects, five of them, turned out to be out-of-state residents, as did the suspects in a larceny at RadioShack, 94 Park St., in March, and those in an attempted fraud at Walgreens, 36 Pine St., last month.

After seeing such criminal activity take place in the center of town, on top of three pedestrian accidents and an increase in distracted driving, the New Canaan Police Department has created a downtown officer position.

The community impact officer will act as the department's "direct interface with the merchants and visitors to the downtown area," Police Chief Leon Krolikowski said in a news release.

"The officer will perform regular foot-patrol duties and act as a liaison between the department and the downtown community," he added. "The CIO will be a consistent presence in the downtown area and will build relationships with those who work and visit."

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Community impact officer duties
Conduct business security surveys.
Conduct daily foot patrols of the downtown area.
Conduct investigations.
Develop relationships with merchants.
Educate merchants on crime prevention.
Emergency response.
Enforce motor vehicle and parking violations.
Maintain a high profile presence to deter criminal activity.
Maintain a master business contact file.
Represent the department in a positive manner to the community at large.

The first officer to fill the role will be Roy Adams, a 13-year veteran of the department. He'll start his new position Monday, Sept. 1.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tucker Murphy said the merchants and the chamber are "thrilled" about the news.

"I think having an officer dedicated to the downtown area is going to go a long way in deterring crime," she said. "Career criminals have been coming in, between the RadioShack heist and the thing that happened at Henry C. Reid, and I think the word will get out that we have an officer who's out here all day."

On March 20, two men and two women from Massachusetts ran out of the RadioShack with a large quantity of stolen merchandise, but they were caught on the Merritt Parkway about an hour later. On July 21, three South Carolina residents were arrested outside the New Canaan Walgreens on a charge of conspiracy to commit larceny.

On top of those incidents, two female residents, including Town Council member Kathleen Corbet, were each hit by a car while crossing the street downtown over the past year.

Krolikowski said the department has been planning to create the role since last summer, when it sent out a survey to merchants.

"One of the predominant requests was more police presence in the center of town, concerns over distracted driving, over littering," he said.

With the recent criminal activity and accidents, Krolikowski said he "saw a real need to have more police presence in the center of town."

But it was only recently, after he hired more certified officers, that he was able to dedicate someone to that position and "Adams was the best fit."

Krolikowski said Adams has received many letters of appreciation "for the exceptional performance of his duties." Adams previously worked as patrol officer, dispatcher, intern coordinator and security surveyor, among other roles. He's also served for nine years as a combat engineer with the Connecticut Army National Guard and has a bachelor's degree in corporate communication from Southern Connecticut State University.

Adams said he expects to create a relationship with all the merchants, something that was not possible when the department assigned different officers to foot patrols in the area.

"We routinely assign an officer to walk in that area, but it's not every day that someone is available," he said. "It's not that we haven't done it, it's just going to be more constant."

Adams said he's already getting emails and phone calls from merchants "who would not ordinarily reach out to us."

Krolikowski said New Canaan will be the first town in lower Fairfield County to have an officer assigned exclusively to the downtown. Police departments in Darien, Wilton, Weston, Westport and Pound Ridge, N.Y., don't have such a position.

He also said the jewelry store's robbery might have been prevented if there was an officer working in the area because the suspects likely "were in town prior to that, kind of surveilling the store.

"Had we had an officer that was constantly dedicated to the center of the town, potentially they wouldn't have committed that robbery," Krolikowski said.

With the assistance of the FBI in April, police arrested four of the five New York state suspects in the smash-and-grab at Henry C. Reid & Son, and they were all federally indicted. There's a warrant for the fifth one, but he has not been located yet, Krolikowski said.

Harry French, owner of the jewelry store, said he's very pleased with the new police role.

"I think it's a fantastic thing," he said. "I always felt that a police presence downtown is a great deterrent. I'm glad to finally see that this is happening downtown, not only for myself, but for all the merchants and for the people who man the stores."

French said another measure he's been pushing for is the installation of surveillance cameras downtown.

Dorothy Mann, owner of a clothing store of the same name at 78 Elm St., said she welcomes the idea of an exclusive officer for the downtown area, but she doesn't see the need for cameras.

"I feel pretty safe, but I know that there's been a couple of incidents," she said. "I think it's good to have an officer in case something does happen."

Geoff Sigg, owner of Pennyweights, at 124 Elm St., also said he was pleased with the decision.

"I think that's great. It'll probably help out with safety, people crossing the street, cut down on shoplifting and crime in town," Sigg said.

The chief said he's hoping Adams can have more of "a mobile presence" soon, with a Segway or an electric car, for instance., 203-330-6582, @olivnelson