Omaha Police and city officials broke ground on the site of the new Elkhorn police precinct Wednesday, beginning the process of expanding police coverage for all residents in West Omaha.
"They're obviously going to be seeing a lot more police cars now. They have a police station right in there backyard, and they're going to be seeing a lot more police officers, and the interactions with the public is going to be greater," said Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer.
The fifth precinct will include all areas of the city west of Interstate 680. Police cover that area already, but the new precinct will allow them to provide more resources to that spot of town and hopefully give West Omaha residents peace of mind.
"So I think that gives them a feeling of confidence that somebody is looking after them or for them. I think that's the neat thing about it," Councilman Rich Pahls said.
"We've always maintained public safety as the highest priority, it's not to say they were underserved before it's just to say they are better served going forward," said council member Brinker Harding.
While the city continues to expand its boundaries west, Mayor Jean Stothert said the move was not done for annexing purposes though acknowledged the precinct may help with future annexations.
"As we do continue to grow — and a lot of the growth is out west — the police presence out here and the building will make a difference to those being annexed," Stothert said.
Chief Schmaderer said he hopes the new building allows folks in Elkhorn to bring in OPD as a part of the community.
"Once we become humanized, once we understand who the public is, that's when policing services and problem solving go to that next level," he said. "And Elkhorn has the opportunity to have that right in their backyard with this fifth precinct."
Construction is expected to start as soon as next week, with hopes to have the facility staffed this time next year.