Another Successful Town Hall
Wednesday evening Costa Mesa councilwoman Wendy Leece hosted another in her series of public safety Town Halls, this time at College Park Elementary School. This successful event found 50 College Park residents gathered to hear from Leece, members of the Costa Mesa Police Department and community volunteers from emergency response and neighborhood awareness organizations.
LIEUTENANT BOB CISZEK
Leece kicked things off, then handed the baton to 28-year veteran CMPD Lieutenant Bob Ciszek, Area Commander of Area 2 - the administrative sub-division in which the College Park community is located. He spoke about Community Oriented Policing, partnership between the police and community and community events such as C3 (Cops, Church, Community), National Night Out and Neighbors to Neighbors - all events designed to tighten the bond between the community and the police officers who provide for their safety.
CRIMES OF OPPORTUNITY
Ciszek spoke of the types of crimes they're seeing in our city, focusing on "crimes of opportunity" - unlocked cars, open garage doors, etc., and stressed that residents shouldn't have things in plain sight in their cars. He also spoke of the "Broken Window" concept, where a home that looks unmaintained may be a more likely target for burglaries than others.
He talked briefly about the recently-implemented "hybrid" scheduling, which combines 4/10 and 3/12 shifts to provide coverage in the city now dealing with 30 fewer sworn officers than just two years ago. At one point he said, "We're working as hard as we can to keep you as safe as we can."
CORPORAL DOUG JOHNSON
Corporal Doug Johnson, 19 years on the CMPD, then discussed issues like the Neighborhood Watch program and the Citizen's Police Academy and gave an overview of how the city is broken up into sub-areas within the two major reporting areas. He gave a breakdown of major crimes for the past 12 months in the areas that form the College Park community, then compared those numbers to areas within the Westside of the city that have three times the number of calls for service - an eye-opener for the audience.
FEWER POLICE = SERVICE DELAYS
Johnson also spoke briefly about how the CMPD deploys its resources now with fewer officers. He mentioned that some of the specialty units - the Narcotics unit, for example - have been disbanded and those officers folded back into other operations, and that the Gang Unit has been reduced from 6 to 4 members. He also spoke of the delays in service responses on busy nights - Fridays, in particular. He also addressed solicitors and scavengers. Residents should call the CMPD if they're concerned about solicitors in their neighborhoods because most do not have permits. Scavengers are not permitted in the city, so residents should call when they see them.
SERGEANT GREG SCOTT
Traffic Bureau Sergeant Greg Scott - a 20-year veteran - then spoke to the group. He compared his motorcycle officers to police helicopters in that they are "force multipliers" - because of their quickness they can cover more ground. He spoke of the CMPD DUI team, each member of which is award-winning for their performance taking drunk drivers off the streets. He referred to one member of the team who will receive an award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) for apprehending more than 430 drunk drivers last year and mentioned that all the other members of the DUI team will be members of the coveted "Century Club" - those who apprehend 100 or more drunk drivers.
Cindy Brenneman and Diane Swarts of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), HERE, briefly gave an overview of their organization and encouraged residents to sign up for the next class in April.
Diane Hill who, with her husband Paul, runs United Neighbors, HERE, also spoke briefly, introducing her organization and encouraging College Park residents to sign up for her email alerts and consider forming neighborhood groups to facilitate responses in the event of major emergencies.
LONGER THAN PLANNED, BUT WORTH IT
The meeting, scheduled for 90 minutes, stretched to nearly two hours because of the excellent presentations by the CMPD and the enthusiastic participation by residents, who asked many relevant questions. All in all, this was yet another excellent community outreach by Leece and the CMPD, with more to come. I just hope they'll advertise the next one a little more and get an even larger response from the neighborhood.