Photo by Cidney Bachert. UCFPD and students share conversation over coffee. The event was hosted in partnership with Café Bustelo and Victim Services.

UCF officers and students talk over a cup of coffee

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Coffee With a Cop was hosted Wednesday in the Student Union from 9:30 a.m to 11:30 a.m. to encourage students to have conversations with the UCF Police Department.

Accompanying the officers were advocates from UCF Victim Services. The advocates came to raise awareness for Human Trafficking Awareness Month and National Stalking Awareness Month.

Students could talk with the officers or advocates about human trafficking or stalking awareness, as well as any other questions they may have.

Andy Duong, a senior digital media major, spoke with an officer about how cops are trying to help in the community any way they can, as well as the public perception of cops.

“I think it’s an important event to let students know that the cops are there to help them in any way they can,” Duong, 24, said. “They want everyone to be safe. Plus, they are more than willing to use their resources to help better educate the public in what their day-to-day work involves.”

“It’s a national event, and police stations across the country do it,” said Courtney Gilmartin, UCFPD public information officer. “We were originally approached by McDonald’s, but the turnout was low because it was off campus and at 7:30 in the morning.”

This is the third time the monthly event has taken place. During the event, Café Bustelo provided free coffee for the officers, representatives and students.

Stephen Corren, marketing manager for UCF Dining Services, said that the event will continue to be held monthly and that they are hoping to have it at more locations.

Gilmartin, 28, said the goal of the event is to show the students that even though the uniforms can be intimidating, there are hearts and humans under them.

The advocates that came with Victim Services were not only part of the university, but part of the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Taskforce.

Coretta Cotton, a member of Victim Services, said that the biggest message they wanted students to receive Wednesday was that they had the resources for concerns of human trafficking. Florida is third in the country for calls going to the Human Trafficking Hotline, Cotton said.

In 2016, there were 1,216 calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and 410 human trafficking cases in Florida, according to the hotline’s website.

UCF Officer Joel Witherspoon has been to all of the Coffee With a Cop events.

“I come to talk with the students,” Witherspoon said. “It’s a great, positive environment.”

The Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Taskforce will be hosting its ninth annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Calvary Orlando Church.

The event is free and includes a movie screening, refreshments and a freedom rally at 1 p.m.