Sgt. Greg Hanks and Crime Prevention Specialist Laura Grossman of the Sacramento Sheriff's Department-South Bureau appeared at Tuesday's Rotary Club meeting to talk about Neighborhood Watch and the benefits of being involved with the program.
The community took a tentative step toward having a Neighborhood Watch program Tuesday night when about 20 residents attended a presentation at the Villas Clubhouse. Crime Prevention Specialist Laura Grossman and other members of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department-South Bureau discussed the program and answered questions during an hour-long session hosted by the Rotary Club.
"As we all know, an officer cannot be on every corner," Grossman began. "So we rely on you, the residents who live in this community, to help patrol and keep an eye out and look out for each other. Take the time to know your neighbors. ... Being able to recognize suspicious activity and know how to report it. Who do you call? This is all stuff that we will review at Neighborhood Watch meetings, once we have them. You'll learn about crime prevention strategy, such as home security... personal security."
As an example, she asked, "Women, are your car keys in your purse? If a bad guy was to run up to you and steal your purse, is he going to get your home keys, your car keys? ... I never keep my car keys in my purse."
"A Neighborhood Watch program needs a neighborhood coordinator," she said. "Your group should consist of 12 to 15 homes." The coordinator is "a liaison between residents and law enforcement. They should be the go-to person for residents ... Someone who will coordinate the meetings and arrange for guest speakers. It doesn't always have to be about law enforcement. We can have guest speakers come in from the fire department to talk about fire safety. ... Someone to maintain phone trees and block maps."
The group begins by identifying what its concerns and goals are for the neighborhood. Grossman uses a survey to accomplish this. "If everyone's concerned about home burglaries, then guess what our next meeting's going to be about?" she said about the results.
Sgt. Greg Hanks, the 27-year veteran who supervises the South Bureau patrol graveyard shift, told the audience, "One thing that I've noticed in my career is the community involvement must be there for us to do our job. ... I have a whole variety of resources that I can call in ... but I can't do that unless I know that the problem exists. ... That's why I want to encourage everybody to report these types of crimes to our service center if it's a cold type crime. If it's a crime in progress, definitely call 911, and let us come out and deal with it."
"If you have something suspicious, if something doesn't look right, call us," urged Grossman. "Please don't hesitate to call 911."
"I would suggest you call 911 first, and then call your Security, get us rolling because we have a lot of resources that Security doesn't," Hanks said in response to a question from the audience. "We have helicopters, we have canines, we have other districts we could pull from. If you believe it's an emergency, definitely call 911 first, and definitely call Security. They need to know what's going on in the community as well. ... Our relationship is a working partnership."
Security Chief Greg Remson said, "911 should go first. ... Then calling us lets us know that something's occurring in the area ... We may be looking for certain things ... and we can relay that information to the responding deputies...."
Hanks pointed out the difference between calling 911 from a land line and from a cell phone. "If you call 911 from a land line, you end up in the Sacramento Sheriff's Department of Communications. If you call 911 from a cell phone, you go to CHP," he said. "So if you have a criminal type of situation and you call 911 from a cell phone, there's going to be a delay in the CHP transferring you back to us."
Remson suggested putting the emergency number for the Sheriff's Department -- 874-5111 -- on a cell phone's speed-dial to avoid the delay.
Security can be reached by calling 354-CARE or 354-3743. The non-emergency number for the Sheriff's Department is 874-5115.
The following is information provided at the meeting about law enforcement personnel and the resources available for the community.
Crime prevention specialist
"I'm not a sworn deputy, I don't carry a gun," Grossman said. "I'm a civilian employee. Neighborhood Watch is my main function. However, community events is another thing that I coordinate. We're invited to participate in the Easter Egg Hunt in April, so I'm making arrangements for the Sheriff's Department to be there. We're going to be fingerprinting children with the Child ID Program, which is an electronic, computer program ..."
An electronic waste collection and document shredding event are planned for March 14 at the FAA Building parking lot. "The e-waste event is for the community to take your electronics and dispose of them properly ... It's also a fundraiser for crime prevention programs," Grossman said. "The paper shredding event is here for your convenience, to shred your important documents. Identity theft is on the rise."
Grossman provides crime prevention through environmental design evaluations. "It's so much more than just lighting and thorny rose bushes around your windows," she explained. "What I can do, free of charge -- all our services are free -- is come to your home or business. ... I walk around the perimeter with you. I'll look at your lighting, your gating, your locks ... and I'll provide you with a written report and any suggestions that I might make. ... It's target-hardening. Make it hard for them to reach the target."
Grossman said her duties include reporting illegal dumping, towing vehicles abandoned on public property, and assisting with the Operation Identification Program by encouraging and helping people to engrave identifying information on their valuables and maintain detailed inventories.
Grossman produces a monthly newsletter about the South Bureau with crime statistics, crime prevention tips, and a patrol roster. The newsletter is mailed to over 300 people and copies are available at various locations in Rancho Murieta, including the post office, Rancho Murieta Association Building, and Murieta Village Clubhouse. The newsletter distribution is expected to go to e-mail starting in May to reduce costs.
Grossman can be reached at 776-4682.
Volunteers in Partnership with the Sheriff
"Without our VIPS, we wouldn't be able to do a lot of things that we're able to do for the communities that we serve," Grossman said.
Local VIPS Myrna Solomon and Jacque Villa were in the audience. They staff James L. Noller Safety Center under the supervision of Office Manager Steve Goins of the Sheriff's Department. The center is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Villa said the phone is monitored at other times. The safety center is located across the parking lot from the administrative offices of the Community Services District. It is owned by the CSD and named for retired Security Chief Jim Noller. The CSD also provides a patrol vehicle for the VIPs, and the volunteers patrol and do vacation checks.
"VIPS patrol is an extra set of eyes and ears," Grossman said. "They report anything suspicious."
Grossman said the center can take reports of non-emergency crimes, provide advice about neighborhood concerns or quality of life issues and outside agency referrals.
The safety center can be reached at 354-8509 or 354-8511.
Problem Oriented Policing officers deal with neighborhood disputes, code enforcement issues and quality of life issues.