Parents, students and citizens attended a child safety community forum last week to learn about the crime surrounding their neighborhood and how to help prevent it.
Chula Vista City Councilman Rudy Ramirez said he asked the Chula Vista Police Department to hold the forum in the Castle Park community to provide them with valuable information.
Chula Vista Police Lt. and South District Cmdr. Roxana Kennedy said the forum, held last week at Castle Park Elementary School, was one of three put on this year in different areas of the city.
“My goal is to try and reduce crimes and problems in your area,” Kennedy said. “Today is about educating you on how not to become victims.”
Police officers discussed overall crime, calls for service, crime statistics and other information to educate the public.
Kennedy said there is a downward trend in the city for overall crime when compared to San Diego County’s average.
In addition, last year there were 23 crimes per 1,000 residents; in the last five years, crime decreased by 34 percent, according to Kennedy.
Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano was also present and expressed the importance of community involvement.
“Keeping a community safe is a shared responsibility,” Bejarano said. “We hope you take as much information back as possible and share it with others in the community.”
Chula Vista Police officer Alan dela Pena, along with officer Leo Banales, spoke on education, action and prevention.
Dela Pena said that car burglaries are one of the city’s most frequent crimes.
“For every arrest that we make, there’s a dozen people waiting to commit the same type of crime,” he said. “As far as preventing theft, that’s probably the biggest threat… It’s a crime of opportunity.”
As a part of the geographic policing unit, dela Pena helps analyze crime trends in order to provide solutions to them.
That information is then circulated to uniformed patrol officers.
“We may have flyers made up to let people know what’s going on so they can help us help them,” he said. “What we find is that when there isn’t a lot of crime going on, people and even officers, tend to get complacent, so we’re reminding everyone to be vigilant without being paranoid and do what they can to prevent crime.”
Officers also talked about stranger danger.
“When you’re walking around, don’t be texting on your phone,” dela Pena said. “Crooks can see that and you may be taken advantage of.”
Stranger danger is geared toward kids, officer Leo Banales said.
“We explained that it’s one thing that, God forbid, someone tries to snatch them … but we explained that to the average passerby, it could be misconstrued so we asked them (children) to kick, scream and yell, ‘You’re not my father,’ or ‘You’re not my mother,’ ” Banales said.
Banales, who teaches defense tactics in the department’s academies, spoke on trusting instincts.
“Goosebumps are there for a reason … your body’s telling you there’s danger,” he said.
Kennedy also encouraged the community to call the police when they see something suspicious or something that goes against their gut.
“We don’t mind when you call the police,” she said. “That’s what we’re here for.”
In addition, the department recently introduced a new program called Help us Solve a Crime.
The program encourages the community to partner with the department to help build safer communities throughout the city and reduce the chance of them becoming victims of crime.
More specifically, it encourages the public to get involved in solving crimes by providing information to the department via a tip line and online at CrimeStoppers.org.
The police department typically holds three forums each year to update communities on crime in their area.