MAHWAH, N.J. – If you're in Mahwah, you're bound to see one of the 650 signs scattered across lawns in the 26-square-mile township.
"Thank you Mahwah police officers for our safe community," they say.
In 2014, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) named Mahwah the safest community in New Jersey.
This year, for the fifth time since 2003, the organization accredited the Mahwah Police Department.
CALEA accreditation takes place every three years. Departments must meet 420 standards to be accredited, Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli said.
Fewer than 5% of police departments in the country meet the national standards to gain accreditation, he added.
Both Batelli and Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet feel outreach is a major component of keeping residents safe.
“It is important to understand a police department for not only what they do when there is an urgent situation, but to really realize that community outreach today is so vitally important,” Laforet said.
In Mahwah the police department conducts a number of outreach programs and initiatives, such as a junior police academy and a youth leadership academy.
The department also recently handed out kits of Narcan, a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
Residents' trust in the police department is evident by those signs of support on so many streets, according to both Laforet and Batelli.
“The number of signs is what is inspiring to us," Batelli said, "and the fact that they are on personal lawns."
LORRAINE ASH ALSO CONTRIBUTED TO THIS STORY.