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Chief’s Advisory Board Asks the Hard Questions

More than a dozen community and business leaders sit around a conference room table on a Friday morning to hear a presentation about gang injunctions.

Sgt. Juan Reveles shares the latest stats

Three former gang-controlled Anaheim neighborhoods now enjoy lower crime and improved quality of life after injunctions prohibited gangsters from congregating, wearing gang-specific clothing and engaging in gang-related activity.

While the news is welcome, members of the Anaheim Police Chief’s Advisory Board pepper police commanders with pointed questions. Business owner Bill Taormina wants to know why the district attorney’s office doesn’t institute a blanket injunction over the entire city.

“What is the obstacle? “ he asks.

Dr. Jose Moreno, a school board member and president of the community group Los Amigos of Orange County, wants to know who determines who makes it on the injunction list.

Chief John Welter leads a discussion at his Chief’s Advisory Board meeting

“What criteria do you use?” he asks.

It’s this diversity of thinking and give-and-take that makes Police Chief John Welter’s advisory board unique and valuable to the department.

“It’s about communication and partnership,” Welter says. “It helps my command staff get perspective and offers an opportunity for discussion. I always appreciate hearing somebody else’s opinion.”

Welter started the board when he became police chief in 2004. It was the first of its kind in Orange County.

The group includes 30 police, business and community leaders and meets monthly. The topics focus mostly on crime prevention. But following the summer’s civil unrest, enhanced community outreach and communication will be a goal for 2013, Welter says.

Sgt. Joe Faria updates the group on recent homicide investigations

On Friday, addressing the city’s rising gang violence dominated the agenda.

In the past month, a 14-year-old gang member armed with a .22-caliber handgun was shot and killed by rivals. In a separate incident, two armed gang members, 19 and 22, were also shot and killed by rival gang members. So far this year, officers have responded to 100 gang-related major assaults, and have been involved in three shootings with armed gang member suspects.

Most recently, a 63-year-old man was beaten because he didn’t want to pay gang extortion money. “In some neighborhoods, they are taxing food truck operators and others,” Sgt. Juan Reveles said.

The injunctions are an intervention tool prosecutors and police use to combat violent gang members and violence.

Anaheim’s first injunction came in the Mountain View/Wakefield/Leatrice neighborhood in 2007. In the five years since the injunction, felony assaults in the “injunction zone” are down 45 percent; robbery is down 74 percent and gang-related calls are down 75 percent. The results are similar in the other two neighborhoods, known as Hermosa Village and the Glen/Neighbors neighborhood.

“It’s making a dramatic impact,” Reveles said.

The department is considering injunctions in other gang-infested neighborhoods.

Although not all his questions were answered at Friday’s meeting, Los Amigos’ Moreno said he finds participating valuable. The department listens to his input, and he appreciates better understanding its perspective, as well.

He says he wishes more average citizens could participate in the dialogue – a sentiment echoed by others, including Welter.

“It’s absolutely worth my time,” Moreno says. “It’s an opportunity to build relationships with people who can make a difference.”

Alison Edwards, deputy director of the OC Human Relations Commission, has served on the board for five years. The board has served the community and the police department well, she says.

“The police department is open to feedback and is very collaborative,” she says.

Do you have a comment for the police department? Please email Sgt. Robert Dunn at rdunn@anaheim.net.

AFJC Honors Graduates of Children’s Survivor’s Academy

By Kevin Rice

Police Chief John Welter offered hugs and congratulations at the Kids Creating Change graduation ceremony

After walking into the Anaheim Family Justice Center (AFJC) and witnessing the laughter and playfulness in of each child, one would never assume that just a short time ago, these children were being physically abused and witnessing violence in their homes.

The mood was joyous last Friday at the graduation ceremony for Kids Creating Change, AFJC Foundation’s Children’s Survivor’s Academy.

Much like its predecessor, the innovative Survivor’s Academy, an eight-week program for women that was founded in 2009, Kids Creating Change is a 20-hour program that provides children of violence the knowledge and skills to shatter the cycle of abuse.

Kids Creating Change covers: conflict resolution/playground bullying; anger management; communication skills; physical health; and, effective family communication (combined parents and children, with breakout sessions).

To accomplish effective learning, the children are grouped into classes of no more than 15 children per age group and provided age appropriate lessons and activities. Juan Gutierrez, 6, and Emily Flores, 7, said that they love to come to Kids Creating Change.

“We did fun things like drawings and Play-Doh,” said Flores.

Michelle Jaimes, 9, is all smiles after receiving her diploma

The graduation ceremony included a certificate presentation to the graduates, words of thanks from the Anaheim Police Department, including Anaheim Police Chief John Welter, a potluck and a special visit from a pair of singers from Anaheim High School.

The students sang “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz and “Firework” by Katy Perry to the tune of an acoustic guitar.

Welter took the stage once again and thanked the parents for allowing their children to participate in this program, but it was the parents that wanted to thank Welter and the many program leaders.

“Muchas gracias por su tiempo (thank you very much for your time),” said one grateful parent.

“Important work is done here; the kids are so sweet and they love to come,” said Susan Bruegman, retired kindergarten teacher and AFJC Foundation Board of Trustees and volunteer with and co-founder of the Kids Creating Change program, “but the real joy is seeing the parents’ faces as the program progresses.”

Community support of police on the mend, officers say

As a homicide detective, Julissa Trapp has witnessed many heartbreaking events during her career.

But none of those events prepared her for the disappointment of watching protesters hurl rocks, bottles and accusations of racism at her, her colleagues and her police department.

During the past two months, however, the tone on the streets has changed, she said. The only sentiment she hears today is gratitude.

“Several citizens have approached me and thanked me for what I do,” she said.

Like several current Anaheim officers, Trapp, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, was born and raised in Anaheim, and she recently bought a home in the city. Her first brush with the department came via the Explorer program, which offers young people an opportunity to work with police officers.

Sgt. Pena

Cost-effective, inspirational and vital to community policing efforts, the program formally known as the Law Enforcement Career Exploring program is designed for high school and college volunteers ages 14-21 – and many recruits come from some of Anaheim’s toughest neighborhoods.

The program has had its own share of success. Approximately 33,000 teens participate in Explorers nationally each year and currently 25 former Anaheim Explorers are either in the police academy or are officers.

“The program is one of the key examples of community oriented policing,” says officer Jonathan Nooitgedagt, who runs the Explorer class. “By bringing qualified and interested youth into the program from all walks of life, we guide the Explorers to build in character and enrich the community.”

In tight fiscal times, the program also has been a boost to the local budget. By utilizing Explorers at certain events, Anaheim has saved money on personnel. However, not all become police officers, Nooitgedagt said. Many go off to law or businesses of their own.

Two examples of the program’s success are Trapp and Steve Pena. As teens growing up in the city, each became certain they wanted to be police officers and what they gained in the program was something they simply wouldn’t have found elsewhere.

“In high school, they tell you drugs are bad for you,” said Pena, a patrol sergeant. “As an Explorer, I talked to drug addicts and saw firsthand how illegal drugs destroy people’s lives.”

Trapp found the detailed preparation invaluable. “My first week at the police academy was so much easier because I was already accustomed to inspections and the mental game.”

Brian Hayes, former Chief Randy Gaston, Chris Foglesong and Pena when he was an explorer

While Trapp said the friendships and “special bond” she made with other Explorers was her favorite part of the program, Pena loved the ride-alongs.

Though July’s shooting and the protests that followed dismay both officers, Trapp and Pena have their own unique and valuable perspective.

“I have worked in some of the most violent neighborhoods in Anaheim and have found most residents to be law-abiding with hopes and dreams similar to me,” Pena said.

Both believe the violent reaction was created by only a few – including some non-residents of the city – and hope the independent investigations will allow everyone to move forward. “Since the initial protests, I feel the events have brought our community and our department closer together,” Pena said.  “More residents are speaking out in support of our police department than ever before in my career.”

Anaheim PD promotes new deputy chief, three other leaders

Hundreds of police officers, city leaders and family members overflowed a police briefing room Thursday to congratulate the department’s new leaders and challenge them to lead the police department into the future.

Deputy chief Quezada is congratulated

Promoted were Deputy Chief Raul Quezada, Capt. Julian Harvey, Lt. Alex Orozco and Sgt. Matt Adrian. Officer Jimmy Elliott also earned his wings as a pilot.

“They are the ones who are going to lead – and not just sit back and manage,” said Police Chief John Welter. “It takes leaders with the right intent to make positive change.”

The department was recently nominated for a prestigious policing award for its work in human trafficking and has innovated and embraced a number of programs that have made APD “one of the finest police departments in the country,” Welter said.

The new sergeant, lieutenant and captain

Welter acknowledged the summer’s civil unrest, and challenged the department to continue the work of building the community’s trust.

“We have gone through some rough times recently, and we will be a better police department for it,” he said. “We have to continue to move forward and not be happy with what we’ve accomplished.”

Quezada echoed the chief’s sentiment, recalling last fall’s serial killings.

“Despite all the challenges, the folks here are just amazing,” he said. “We support each other and we will continue to work that way.”

Harvey, a former member of the national water polo team, described his colleagues as “bright and committed at every level.” Orozco thanked his colleagues for the “hard work they do every day.”

And Adrian grew up in the department, serving as a police explorer before becoming an officer.

Lt. Eric Carter, who emceed the ceremony, encouraged them to embrace their new roles.

“What kind of leader are you going to be?” he asked. “Do the right thing for the right reasons.”