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Coffee with the Commander: Noir All Around
By Kate Karp
It wasn’t pulp fiction, but the pairing of java with early nightfall and a talk by Lt. Gary Christensen of the LBPD Property Crimes Division struck an appropriately cool chord. Lt. Christensen came to the November 18 Coffee with the Commander, held at Grounds Bakery and Café on Spring Street, to explain the department’s implementation of its Decentralized Detective Program, which has had promising results in North Long Beach.
The program’s intent is, as Lt. Christensen said, to create synergy between the working patrol and detectives. Detectives are physically assigned to an area in which a certain type of crime has markedly increased and then work in a triad with a crime analyst and officers to note commonalities with other incidents. With this program in effect, patrol officers can talk to detectives when a crime occurs, which leads to increased arrests. The prime element in reducing crime, the lieutenant said, is communication among law officials.
“This was missing until we embedded four detectives and half a sergeant in the North Division,” Lt. Christensen said.
When an increase in auto and residential burglaries was noted in the East Division, the LBPD decided to implement and extend the program to the East Division. Four detectives and the half-sergeant, who supervises case and tactical assessment and provides guidance, are now crowded into the little division office where they can talk directly with the patrol officers without the necessity to run back and forth downtown.
A suspicious person in the area may be required to fill out a field interview card, which may be used in an investigation if a similar-looking suspect or vehicle is arrested or reported at the scene of another crime. If such instances as ransacking; a clue left behind, e.g., a gang moniker; and illegal entry methods like cut screens are present at a crime scene and the detectives find links to other, similar crimes, the detectives assigned to the division will get to the scenes faster than they would if they had to come from the central station. Being present at the scene helps to keep the details fresh in the minds of law officials and also may help connect a particular crime with others. The quality of reports, the lieutenant said, are good, the officers and detectives are training each other, and residents have approached him expressing satisfaction with the program.
Lt. Christensen and Commander Cynthia Renaud answered questions from the attendees and advised them what to look for and do to prevent and report crime. They said that 70 to 80 percent of crimes occur because people leave their doors and windows unlocked.
“It’s surprising how many people have ladders,” Lt. Christensen responded to a question of leaving windows or doors unlocked on floors above the first. He said, furthermore, to be watchful of trucks equipped with ladders driving down alleys and streets. The drivers may tell you that they’re doing work on a roof, but they may be actual second-story men (and women) who clean out more than gutters.
Check out school kids whom you haven’t seen in your neighborhood, especially if their backpacks seem especially full—they may contain your new laptop and iPod. The kids may be small and agile enough to get through a swinging doggie door. The knock-and-talk method, which was discussed at other meetings, involves one or more people banging loudly on a door to see if anyone’s home. If no one is, the individuals attempt a break-in.
Mostly, the commander and lieutenant said, be aware of what doesn’t fit, of who is in your neighborhood who looks as if he or she may be planning something illegal. If so, they said, call 9-1-1 immediately.
“Work together and think about your neighbors,” Lt. Christensen said. “Educated neighbors make a difference.”
Fifth District Councilmember Gerrie Schipske and representatives from her office and that of the Third District were in attendance. Councilmember Schipske, who is the vice chair of the Council Public Safety Committee, described the East Division as “relatively safe,” but warned of the state budget shortfall.
“Our council needs to be proactive regarding public safety,” she said. “We don’t want a gap in officers on the street.”
Local crime reports included an account by the block captain of the West Belmont Shore Neighborhood Watch of two burglaries on Ximeno Avenue between Ocean Boulevard and First Street. Young adults came through the neighborhood knocking on doors to sell magazine subscriptions. One neighbor, the block captain said, followed one of the sellers for blocks, took photos and got a description and license plate number. A short time later, two apartments were burglarized on separate occasions and a suspect seen by a neighbor matched the description of the magazine seller, a young black male. Commander Renaud and Lt. Christensen said that they would direct the block captain with the appropriate party to whom to send the photographs.
The individual who has been robbing businesses, mainly restaurants, in the Bellflower Boulevard/Carson Street area down to the Bellflower Boulevard/Willow Street section has not yet been apprehended. He is described as a white male in his early 20s, usually wearing glasses and carrying a gun. For a complete description and further details, visit www.longbeach.gov/police and click on the announcement.
There will be no Coffee with the Commander meeting in December. The next meeting will take place Jan. 20 at 6 p.m. at Grounds Bakery and Café, 6277 E. Spring St. in Long Beach and will concern phishing and other identity-theft scams. District 5 Councilmember Gerrie Schipske and LBPD staff will preside over the tables, and Detective Greg McMullin will be the featured speaker. Meanwhile, have a great holiday and remember to keep all your new gifts away from the windows, don’t keep any purchases in your car (imagine the ire of a thief when he or she discovers that the beautifully wrapped gift box swiped from your vehicle contained nothing more than a fuzzy sweater with faux wooden buttons for your Aunt Mildred), keep the season bright by lighting up your property, get rid of the brand-new-electronics boxes in a public recycling bin (and not your neighbors’; that’s naughty, not nice), and for Pete’s sake, keep every door and window locked. If you hear someone in your living room at midnight, chances are it’s not Santa Claus. Scroogeridoo and bah-humbuggery aside, it’s what we’ve got to do to have a Happy Holiday nowadays. And may yours be one.
( Click here for more information about next meeting on January 20th! )
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