Fairfield County residents, including those in Violet and Liberty townships, soon could find themselves face-to-face with a sheriff's deputy, thanks to a "Stop, Walk & Talk" program started last month.

Fairfield County residents, including those in Violet and Liberty townships, soon could find themselves face-to-face with a sheriff's deputy, thanks to a "Stop, Walk & Talk" program started last month.

Fairfield County Sheriff Dave Phalen said the office's 40 patrol deputies have been ordered to spend 15 minutes of each hour out of their cruisers and walking neighborhoods across the county.

"The idea is to get deputies out of their cars talking with neighbors and meeting business owners," Phalen said. "It strengthens relationships between the sheriff's office and the community we serve.

"The more we form those types of relationships, the better we're going to be able to do our jobs."

This is the first time in Phalen's nine-year tenure as sheriff his office has implemented a formal program requiring deputies to leave their cruisers and interact with residents and businesses.

For a number of years, Phalen said, some of his deputies voluntarily have taken such action, and other law enforcement agencies throughout the country encourage this type of beat work.

Now, it's a mandate in Fairfield County.

"For us, this is ongoing. It's not a six-month program and it's not a program that has a window of time," Phalen said. "It's a part of our standard-operating procedure."

In addition to strengthening trust and the flow of information between the sheriff's office and constituents, Phalen predicts that parking a cruiser for two hours out of an eight-hour shift will result in a 25-percent reduction in fuel usage and bolster deputies' fitness.

"It's good community policing strategy, it saves fuel and it improves deputies' health," he said.

Areas targeted through the program primarily are business district, parks, schools and neighborhoods.