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The Boston Globe

Opinion

Joan Wickersham

The homeless beat

His title is Officer — Officer Eric Helberg of the Cambridge Police Department — but homeless people in Cambridge call him “Eric.” He’s worked with them for the past 10 years, beginning when he walked a beat around Central Square. His fellow officers watched him talking to homeless men and women in a way that gradually built trust in a wary, hard-to-reach group. “Eric was good,” says Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas. “He had an extraordinary skill set.”

Noticing that Eric’s interactions with the homeless were reducing the number of reported problems, the department created a homeless outreach program in 2007, comprised of Eric and another officer, Matt Price.

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