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FBI: Crime in Anaheim Dips at Twice the Rate of National Average

Anaheim’s crime rate dropped about 10 percent in 2009, according to an FBI report released this week.

The decline was double the national average, the report said. The statistics mirror numbers released last week by the California Department of Justice.

“There are several pieces that must come together to successfully battle crime,” said Sgt. Rick Martinez. “Good police work combined with strong community support are among the key ingredients.”

In Anaheim, both are evident, he said. As examples, he pointed out how the homicide bureau solved all 2009 killings – and four old cases.

“And we continue to develop deep and meaningful partnerships with Anaheim schools, the business community and in neighborhoods across the city,” he said. “We are watching out for each other – and working together to keep Anaheim safe.”

To read the Los Angeles Times story, click here. To read the FBI report, click here.

Top Scholars Leading Anaheim’s Fight Against Graffiti

On the frontline of Anaheim’s battle against graffiti is Carmen Martinez, an Anaheim High School senior who plans to study government at Cornell University next year.

Valencia High senior Valentin Ortiz and Magnolia High senior Michelle Rodriguez discuss graffiti prevention

Joining her is Anaheim High classmate Erick Samayoa, 17, who earned a full scholarship to The Citadel military academy and Valentin Ortiz, a Valencia High School football star headed to the University of La Verne.

The scholars are among 16 Anaheim teen-agers who comprise Police Chief John Welter’s Anaheim Youth Advisory Council and play a key role in the Anaheim Community Anti-Graffiti Effort.

“What is graffiti?” Martinez asks rhetorically. “It’s a form of violence, and we don’t want it in our community.”

The group has spent hundreds of hours delivering anti-graffiti messages to elementary school children.

“They are doing a great job,” Welter said. “Who better than these talented high school students – role models to the younger generation – to provide this important curriculum.”

The effort is making a difference. Calls to a confidential graffiti hotline are up. So are court referrals for convicts assigned to community service. And overall awareness among Anaheim’s youngest children has never been higher, city officials say.

The teen-agers plan to put 350 children through the six-session curriculum by the end of August.

Community Services Supervisor of Youth Development Joe Perez and Youth Advisory Council Chairman Jesse Gutierrez

“We want to help our community,” Jesse Gutierrez, a University of California, San Diego-bound sociology student and chair of the youth council.

Gutierrez is also benefitting from the program. He earned a $5,000 Disney scholarship for the “Graffiti Hurts” curriculum, which he helped develop. It includes a Monopoly-style board game – a fun way to illustrate the damage taggers do.

Joe Perez, Anaheim’s Community Services Supervisor of Youth Development Programming, said most of the students are also police explorers or involved with Project S.A.Y. (Support Anaheim’s Youth) program.

Michelle Rodriguez is one of them. The Magnolia High school senior hopes to become a police officer after earning a criminal justice degree from Cal State Fullerton.

“It is a great program,” she said. “We’re learning a lot about leadership.”

The group’s officers are:
Chairman – Jesse Gutierrez
Vice Chair – Carmen Martinez
Treasurer – Angie Abarca
Secretary – Manuela Herrera
Vice Secretary – Michelle Rodriguez

Also attending last week’s meeting from Anaheim High School was senior Bryan Ortiz, juniors Andrea DeGuzman, Kevin Anaya and Jimena Galvan; sophomore Demetrio Gonzalez and Fatima Gutierrez, and Juan Iturbide. From Valencia High was senior Hector Guevara and from Katella High was senior Rosalva Rodriguez.

APD Awards Event Featured in Anaheim Bulletin

Officer Brandon Young (pictured with Chief John Welter and Deputy Chief Craig Hunter) saved an elderly woman who was choking

The Anaheim Police Department “Behind the Badge” column in the Anaheim Bulletin this week highlighted the winners and others honored at last week’s awards and retirement celebration.

“For two hours last week at The Grove of Anaheim, more than 500 people applauded police employees for saving lives, solving crimes and serving the community honorably,” the column says. “In turn, the department thanked several community partners and volunteers for playing a role in Anaheim’s safety record.”

To read the column, click here.

Anaheim’s Crime Rate Continues to Drop

Violent and property crime rates continued to free fall in Anaheim, according to a report released this week by the California Department of Justice.

Anahiem’s overall crime rate dipped by nearly 10 percent, the report said. The biggest decrease? Vehicle burglaries dropped more than 17 percent.

“This is good news and more evidence of how real partnerships between the police department and the community are paying off,” said Anaheim Police Sgt. Rick Martinez. “It takes a village to keep a community safe, and we’re pleased that the effort in Anaheim is paying off. Of course we must continue to look out for one another.”

To read the DOJ’s report, click here.

To read an Orange County Register story about the countywide crime picture, click here.

Like Father, Like Son

The Orange County Register published an outstanding profile of retired Capt. Joe Vargas on the front page of Saturday’s newspaper.

The headline: “Like father, like son.”

The story delves into Vargas’ relationship with his father, a retired Santa Ana Police officer. Their story, the newspaper says, “embodies the American Dream.”

Vargas followed the lessons he learned from his father “to change a police force,” the article says, “And a city.”

To read the on-line version, headlined “The best cop(s) ever hired,” click here.

Anaheim and Fullerton PDs Commend Girl for Steering her Mother to Safety

by Cristian Soler

A nine-year old girl was honored Thursday night for working with police dispatchers to guide her mother to safety while being followed by a suspicious vehicle.

Nora Rojas is congratulated by Fullerton PD dispatcher Linda Carter and Anaheim PD's Desiree Martinez

Fullerton Police Dispatcher Linda Carter and Anaheim dispatcher Desiree Martinez commended Nora Rojas for her ability to communicate effectively with both police departments during a tense situation.

Nora quietly said “thank you” and smiled as she accepted certificates inside the Anaheim PD Communications Center.  

The incident began shortly after they pulled out of their driveway; Nora and her mother noticed a beige Honda Civic with two passengers making the same conspicuous turns as they did.   

“I was scared because the car kept following us,” said Nora.

Nora was handed the phone after her mother dialed 911 to help translate for her.  

“She did a great job,” said Carter. 

Her mother only speaks Spanish.  

Nora was able to translate instructions to her mother, share their location  and describe the color and model of the suspicious car, Carter said.  

Headed south on State College Boulevard, Carter transferred the call to Martinez when they crossed into Anaheim. 

“She was able to direct her mom where to go,” said Martinez.

Martinez gave Nora turn-by-turn directions to the Anaheim police station.  

Soon after Nora and her mother arrived at APD, the suspicious vehicle was spotted and pulled over for questioning by Anaheim officers, Martinez said. 

No arrests were made. 

Nora, a fourth-grader at Sunkist Elementary, aspires to be an artist one day.  

In her spare time, Nora enjoys drawing in a small notebook. She said she loves to make beaded bracelets, play handball, watch The Simpsons television show and play soccer with her older brother.

Her plans for the summer include a small school project about Native Americans. She also plans to spend time at her sister’s pool, swimming and eating hamburgers with her family and friends.  

Anaheim PD Honors Lifesavers, Crime Solvers, Community Partners and More

One played a key role in solving a double murder and a series of burglaries. Three others revived an infant who stopped breathing. 

And on his final day on the job, Capt. Joe Vargas was honored for 30 years of police innovation.

Capt. Joe Vargas

For two hours Wednesday night at The Grove of Anaheim, more than 500 people applauded dozens of police employees for saving lives, solving crimes and serving the community with honor. In turn, the department thanked several community partners and volunteers for playing a critical role in Anaheim’s outstanding safety record.

“It was another year of great police work,” Police Chief John Welter said. “You should be very proud of the work you do.”

Michael Villani, “The Voice of APD,” served as emcee – and was honored for his 25 years of volunteerism.

Officer Erik Degn earned the evening’s top award, a Medal of Valor, for ending a pursuit of “one of the most wanted” men in Orange County at the time, Villani said.

Police Chief John Welter, Medal of Valor winner Erik Degn and Deputy Police Chief Craig Hunter

The suspect – a parolee facing a $1-million sexual assault warrant – was on the run, armed and dangerous, according to officials. Following a pursuit, the suspect fired a handgun at officers. Worried about innocent bystanders, Degn left his cover to confront the man, “ultimately ending this extremely dangerous situation,” Villani said.

Other awards included:

Distinguished Service

Sgt. Mike Helmick, Det. Mike McAlpine and Inv. Ted Lopez: They apprehended and confronted a dangerous double homicide suspect, who then aimed a firearm at Helmick. Even after the officers shot the suspect, the suspect raised his firearm at them, forcing another response.

“No officers or innocent bystanders were injured due to their decisive actions,” Villani said.

Officer Monty Hernandez: Facing a suicidal man armed with a knife inside a storage shed, Hernandez persuaded the man to drop the knife and surrender. His efforts led to “an extremely tense and dangerous situation” ending without incident, Villani said.

Lifesaving Awards

Officers Ernesto Sena, Jonathan Nooitgedagt and Matthew Budds revived a 7-month old who stopped breathing

Officers Matthew Budds, Jonathan Nooitgedagt and Ernesto Sena: The trio responded to a 911call in March of last year that no parent ever wants to make: a seven-month-old baby not breathing and turning blue. Sena translated the parents’ panicked Spanish for his partners, who performed CPR and rescue breathing. “Emergency room doctors later said that the baby most likely would have died,” Villani said.

Officer Thomas Salcido:  A woman called for help after discovering her husband attempting to hang himself in their garage. She got him down but couldn’t loosen the noose. He was choking to death when Salcido arrived. Salcido quickly cut the noose and provided medical attention that stabilized him until paramedics arrived.

Officer Brandon Young: Responding to an unintelligible 911 call, Young found a choking elderly woman. He performed the Heimlich maneuver and saved her life.

Officer John Kirstenpfad: In another chocking incident, Kirstenpfad saved the life of a fellow officer who had food lodged in his throat.

Joseph T. Molloy Career Achievement Award

Capt. Joe Vargas: He retired Wednesday. Vargas served as the department’s first public information officer, community policing sergeant and founded the Anaheim Police Activities League (now known as Cops 4 Kids).

Randal W. Gaston Community Service Awards

West District Community Policing Sgt. Sharon Pietrok: A noted innovator in the area of crime prevention, she was the The Masons Anaheim Lodge’s “Officer of the Year.”

City Councilwoman Lucille Kring congratulates Cisko (and Officer Brian Bonczkiewicz)

Officer Randy Sany: The Veterans of Foreign Wars “Officer of the Year,” Sany was honored for his role in helping solve a double homicide and a rash of dental burglars.

Officer Brian Bonczkiewicz: He’s the American Legion’s “Officer of the Year.” He and his partner, German Shepherd Cisko, seized more than $500,000 in narcotics and made several high profile arrests, including a suspect accused of burglarizing six U.S. Post offices.

Unit of the Year – Homicide

Sgt. Jim Reed, Dets. Kerry Condon, John Duran, Elizabeth Faria, Rich LaRochelle, Chris Maselon, Jeff Mundy, James Rodriguez, Karen Schropfer and Matt Sutter: They solved all nine killings in 2009 – and even four older cases.


Reserve Officer Terry Bowers, Senior Police Services Representative Lana King, Det. Mike McKernon, Officer Mike Nichols, Officer Dave Piper, Officer Guy Reneau and Grant Coordinator Cindy Nickel.

Meritorious Service: 

Det. Kathy Reiss for her work solving a bank robbery-kidnapping; Officer Bill Cowhey for 25 years serving the Air Support unit; Charmaine Darmour for streamlining missing person reporting and Chaplain Bryan Crow for 20 years of serving the department and community.

Division Employees of the Year:

Office of the Chief: Sgt. Kelly Jung, Terri O’Sullivan and Marcy Cowan; Special Operations: Inv. Ken Weber and Maria Morales; Operations: Officer Ken Johnson and Karyn Flutts; Investigations: Inv. Nathan Stauber and Linda Lock; Operations Support: Sgt. Mike Foster and Steven Querry; Reserve Officer of the Year is Terry Bowers.

Community Member Recognition

Terry Leist for his contributions in creating equipment for the Special Tactics Unit; Ken and Susan Chinn for making a difference in crime prevention in the Rose/Bush/Vine neighborhood; Bob Gardner, principal at Paul Revere Elementary School, for hosting neighborhood watch and council meetings and making a difference; Sally Feldhaus for creating deep business partnerships through the Chamber of Commerce.

Capt. Chuck O'Connor congratulates Explorer of the Year, post Capt. Yvonne Knight

Explorer of the Year

Post Capt. Yvonne Knight dedicated more than 530 hours last year alone – and has served Anaheim PD for four years.

Also honored were the department’s growing list of volunteers. The list includes Loretta Ogden (4,422 hours), Dee Moriarty (3,951 hours), Don Mendenhall (3,268 hours) and Claire Neises (3,138 hours). Dolores and Lennie Crupnick, Earle Moriarty and Don Schilling have donated more than 2,000 hours; Gene Benedict, Bev Guida, Lorna Moore, Don Baldwin, Muriel Lowenberg and Elaine Proko have worked more than 1,000. Other volunteers who were honored: Joey Santomassino, Vinny Nardo-lillo, Teri MacMaster, Jim Leonard, John Henage, Alice Grant, Gary Aagesen, June Aagesen, Ron Wilkinson, Gina Wilkinson, Ron Walter, Wanda Smith-Brace, Saint Amant, Helen Scott, Tommy Ruiz, Janice Richardson, Mendora Pico Predendez, Barbara Patko, Brenda Nardolillo, Frank Lansner, Paul James, Pamela Holsinger, William Gresher, William Farrid, Art Eng, Robert Droulliard and Jerry Bordelon.

APD's homicide unit solved every 2009 killing - and four older cases