'Copsicle Cruiser' hopes to help Pa. PD connect with community

The truck is also an educational vehicle: among the images of treats is a QR code that links to social service organizations and other helpful county resources

By Marc Narducci
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — One night a few months ago, Bensalem Township Police Director Fred Harran had a lightbulb moment while web-surfing.

“Some people look for vacation sites,” Harran said. “I start looking for police websites.”

Bensalem Township Police Director Fred Harran (front) and Police Sgt. Greg Winokur (behind the wheel) pose with The Bensalem PD's new ice cream truck - aka the Copsicle Cruiser.
Bensalem Township Police Director Fred Harran (front) and Police Sgt. Greg Winokur (behind the wheel) pose with The Bensalem PD's new ice cream truck - aka the Copsicle Cruiser. (Photo/Alejandro A. Alvarez of The Philadelphia Inquirer via TNS)

He was intrigued by projects that police departments around the country had launched to increase positive engagement with their communities.

And the idea came to Harran that ice cream, of all things, could help bridge the gap that can sometimes exist between officers and residents in his own township.

Thus was born The Bensalem PD Copsicle Cruiser, a bright, colorful ice cream truck staffed by Bensalem police officers who dispense free cold sweets at public events. The truck — equipped with lights, tinny music, sliding side window, and interior freezers — is also an educational vehicle: Among the painted images of treats that enliven the truck’s outsides is a QR code that, when scanned, links to social-service organizations and other helpful Bucks County resources.

“We focus on the needs of the community as they come to us. So when we see what is happening across the nation, our department really focuses on community policing,” Harran said. “This was another way to connect and build relationships, a neat way to shine a positive light on relationship-building between police officers and the kids.”

The Copsicle is actually a retrofitted school bus that was no longer in service but still street-worthy, donated from the Bensalem School District.

“The district really stepped up — what a great partner they are,” Harran said.

The conversion cost about $10,000, all paid for by donors, including Building a Better Bensalem Together (B3T), Creekside Apartments, and the Bensalem Lions Club.

Michelle Benitez, co-chair of the executive board of B3T, attended The Copsicle’s first ice cream giveaway in May, when police handed out about 200 frozen treats.

“It was incredible. The energy around the event was just delightful,” said Benitez, whose organization, a volunteer community coalition, provides programs and services to Bensalem Township residents. “The police officers were having a great time — and, of course, the kids and parents loved the idea.”

Harran emphasized that Bensalem Township police have always been proactive in working with the community. The Copsicle simply adds to the work done in the past. The truck is intended to “really try to get to kids, break down barriers and show them that the police are here to help you,” he said.

One free ice cream bar at a time.


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