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Police: How can we make residents feel safer to report crime?

One of the biggest issues to emerge from Police Chief’s Raul Quezada’s new Neighborhood Advisory Council – the depth of reluctance in some neighborhoods to call police for help.

Chief Quezada chats with Board Member Jose Moreno

Chief Quezada chats with Board Member Jose Moreno

Quezada and his top deputies shared the insight and led a discussion Friday morning with his Chief’s Advisory Board at the Tiger Woods Learning Center.

“We asked them, ‘Why are you afraid to call the police?’” Quezada said, a day after his second meeting with the neighborhoods’ group.

In some cases, residents fear retribution from gang neighbors. Others are undocumented immigrants who mistakenly confuse police for immigration officials.

Board member Dave Lopez, a retired state parole officer, said he sympathizes with those who live in gang neighborhoods.

“Once the cops leave, who is going to protect us?” said Lopez, who has seen gang members near his home intimidate neighbors.

A member of the Neighborhood Advisory Board on Thursday night told police her neighbors near Sunshine Way and Miraloma were parking their cars in front of their garages to protect their property from thieves, who had hit 12 garages.

They were afraid to call police.

“We were all looking at each other,” said Lt. Tim Schmidt. “That’s a big number.”

They should call police, Deputy Chief Julian Harvey said.

Harvey said police prefer if crime victims or witnesses call them and file a report with their names on it. But if they are afraid, they can share crime information anonymously on the department’s website, he said.

In those neighborhoods where there is fear, “we need to go to them,” he said.

Community policing is a big focus. More officers are on foot patrols.  Quezada offered to visit with neighbors in their homes. Harvey said police would soon be adding “Coffee with a Cop” events in more reluctant neighborhoods to help build trust and encourage community partnership.

“It’s a big challenge,” he said. “When people see that some of their neighbors are willing to work with us that will make a difference.”

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