|Crime Watch & Community Policing Issues - Police resources are thin! - Install webcams & CCTV|
Updates to: Our Community Watch History
It is NOT Taking the Law Into Your Own Hands
It is Following the Law that We The People Were Granted by OUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES!
The arrest of criminal suspects in our neighborhood is gratifying when citizens are the ones who call it in and there are units available to respond. Too often, there are higher priority calls pending, so the bad guys get away. 1 Even when caught in the act and arrested, the long delays in court cases wear down victims and witnesses. Waiting 18 months for justice to be served is a crime in and of itself.
We still must remain proactive if Community Policing is to work. We must arm ourselves with our own tools to aid patrol officers and the detectives that investigate cases after an arrest.
Gone are the days when we had pre-planned game plans and a real partnership with our own Neighborhood Police Officers aka POP cops because the City Manager has gutted the Sacramento Police Department and the too few beat officers we have on the street in 2014 can only help on a case by case basis. Most of the positive results have come from neighbors working together on the Chief's new social network Nextdoor.com and our once active Crimewatch Neighborhood Patrols.
Outstanding Patrol Officers and a Caring News-10 Media
"They work hard for the money"... or so the song goes ... six men, three stories: Caught on Tape! Jose del Toro and Jose Gomez work two jobs in Sacramento's midtown. They bought a new mountain bike, serving as shared transportation to and from their jobs in local restaurants. They live in a gated secure apartment building that also serves as the Community Watch headquarters in midtown. Up until a few weeks ago, they and their 30 plus neighbors lived a crime free existence inside the safety of the gated community. Then their safety and security were compromised and sense of a safe home violated.
State prison parolee Dennis Maurice Bell and probationer Arnold Joe "A.J." Allen work early morning hours while claiming to live at the Salvation Army where they first teamed up. Their work? Stealing from Jose del Toro, Jose Gomez and countless other midtown residents to support drug habits. Bell, a potential second striker, is a career criminal.
Then there's Dave Nakata and George Chargin who work really hard for the money: they could make more in another city but they choose to be among Sacramento's Finest. They are beat cops in midtown.
After a two week string of auto burglaries (6) and attempted car thefts (2) in the alley behind the 1800 block of H Street, neighbors and watch members said "enough is enough ... crime is not down in our neighborhood, it's up by 300%." The Community Watch folks took some of the high-tech equipment off their patrol bike and installed it in the apartment building.
Then it happened! The Community Watch patrol bike and Jose's bike were stolen at 4:30 a.m. after suspects scaled a 15' high wall topped with barrier tacks to gain entry into the gated community. What Sacramento's dumbest criminals didn't pay much heed to, was the NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH SIGN and VIDEO SURVEILLANCE WARNING sign. The pair faced multiple felony criminal charges having been arrested days later by Officers Chargin and Nakata after identification from the video. (Case # SPD 00-33466)
A computer check of the Superior Court's website shows multiple arrests of both subjects in 1999 and 2000. In Bell's case, the District Attorney has been made aware of the community interest in the case with hopes a "No-Deal" sentence will lock him up for a medium to maximum prison term.
The spokesman for Community Watch can't remember how many arrests "The A Team" (a nickname given Nakata and Chargin by their sergeant ) have made over the years in their immediate neighborhood alone. "It must number in the hundreds by now, both our handful of citizen's arrests and police arrests that have spawned from working with these and other street cops." Without guys like Dave and George and their immediate supervisors, we'd be the ones who are handcuffed by apathy and too many criminals in too small a neighborhood." One benefit of the positive news coverage these stories attract is that officers Chargin and Nakata get the kind of recognition they so richly deserve.
Watch members and the victims say the arrest is just the second phase of working with police, parole and prosecutors within the system. Now they will engage the District Attorney and go to court to insure punishment that fits the crime. "Bell is a predator parolee, the kind that seems to never learn and hasn't yet. In his own words, we were 'an easy lick' I guess that door swings both ways, the minute officers Nakata and Chargin saw their mugs on our tape, they were licked!" says Jenest. At the end of the day, even with the video, two street cops who know all the felons in our neighborhood, made the difference.
In Court: Defendants Allen and Bell were bound over for trial at the preliminary hearing in Department 4. Defense lawyers contested the value of the bikes stolen by the pair and suggest their "depreciated value" does not warrant felony charges. Victims will stress that loopholes in the law spared both defendants the more serious charge of burglary. Even though the building is gated and enclosed, the video shows Bell trying to pick the front gate lock. Defendant Bell had to scale a 15 foot wall to gain entry. The lack of a "roof" over the courtyard rules out "forced entry". The Deputy D.A. may push the conspiracy angle while Community Watch considers lobbying for strengthening burglary laws to include gated apartments.
Midtown victims and Citizen's Community Watch are veterans in the completing of the criminal justice cycle. Step one is to examine the criminal defendant's history. Is he/she a first time offender or a career criminal? The former's case might not require community input if the crime is not severe. The latter brings all the resources the organization can muster: victim advocacy in court, letters to the judge, parole or probation officers and prodding elected representatives to write letters to the court. The purpose is to exact punishment that fits the crime and the criminal's track record. In this case, both suspects have lengthy criminal records, including multiple felony convictions.
Faced with video evidence, and just as the jury had been seated, Bell plead guilty on the pending drug case and took a four year state prison sentence. Arnold plead guilty to the felony and accepted a county jail term plus restitution and three years of formal probation.
Update February 2002: The Community Watch role in these criminal justice proceedings doesn't end with the sentencing of the felons involved in these cases. It takes a number of volunteers like emerging watch spokesman Tim Snipes (pictured here) to keep track of the sometimes lengthy and frustrating process. Where a criminal defendant is sentenced to county jail time, a Sacramento Sheriff's automated system is available to alert victims when an individual is released from custody. V.I.N.E. stands for Victim Information Notification Everyday and using the inmate's name or cross reference (X-Ref) number, victims of crime will be given inmate custody information. After receiving custody information, the victim will be given the option to register for notification of the inmate's release, transfer, or escape. When notified of the release, the Community Watch Restitution Team makes contact with the probation officer or the Department of Revenue Recovery to follow up of the court ordered restitution payment schedule.
Tim, as he reviews the transcript of Arnold Allen's sentencing, finds that he was arrested soon after release. The new case involved serious offenses of attempted armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. The group will keep in touch with the Deputy District Attorney assigned to the case, attend the jury trial and, given the opportunity, appear at the final sentencing hearing to provide victim and community input to the court.
Keeping "THE COMMUNITY" in COMMUNITY POLICING!
Community Watch is proud of it's record in court for convictions in cases where they either made the arrests or helped police bag the bad guys. "Not one suspect or volunteer has been hurt, no complaints or law suits filled by any of the offenders and no cases dismissed for improper conduct or evidence gathered in helping police" says SCCW's director. Local television news reporters like Mike Boyd and Public Works police officer Lori LaGrassa help deliver the message that the community can and should be part of the process from start to finish.
Former prosecutor (now Superior Court Judge) Patrick Marlette, while serving as spokesman for District Attorney Jan Scully, was supportive of the Community Watch effort to make property crimes a greater priority in the courts. "Without the advocacy of the District Attorney and her prosecutors, we'd have had little success in convincing the police chief to crack down on cases like vandalism and thefts" notes the Community Watch director.
Community Watch is a team effort, working with beat cops and other community activists. Called a model by the news media and it's own elected city councilman, the volunteers aren't afraid to roll up sleeves and do the time consuming and often labor intensive work that police have neither the manpower or time to do.
Activities range from cleaning drug infested vacant lots (know as a shooting gallery), to random bike patrols. Members are sometimes alerted by district police officers of series crimes in a area, and, where possible, additional watch resources are applied. One of the group's most notable vandalism arrests was attributed to Bret Cagle's K-9, a lovable Rottweiler who patrolled our neighborhood nightly. And yes, the group also spends considerable time urging city fathers and the police administration to beef up its own police department. At the end of the day, it's the beat cops who make the program successful.
The mentor for Citizen's Community Watch is the author of Fight Back, retired D.E.A. Agent Michael Levine. Here's some of what Mike had to say about this winning strategy on his New York City radio show.
"Another side benefit of trained community watchers is that hard-core, crime committing addicts are identified by the community, as they make multiple purchases of drugs. Why is this important? Because we know that hard-core addicts are committing crimes, often within a short distance of where they buy drugs. Thus local patrol officers can be armed with the license numbers and descriptions of hard-core addicts on the prowl.
Under a Fight Back program, Law enforcement, to complete its part of the partnership, must form one specialized enforcement squad that works in cooperation and partnership with the community squad, training it, encouraging it, and responding to the community group's information with, from time to time, police action against buyers, thereby giving the threat “teeth.” Once the community has identified a drug dealing location, the squad immediately goes into action. They set up an ambush. As the drug buyers leave the location carrying drugs, they are arrested for possession and, when on wheels, their cars seized. When I set up this type of operation while working for the Drug Enforcement Administration, we would usually seize more than enough vehicles to pay our salaries and then some. (Story of NYC community meeting and car seizure operation). The buyers are then given the 'opportunity' to testify against the dealer who had just sold them the stuff.
You will find most buyers are either frightened people with jobs and families, or hard-core addicts with long arrest records, both categories of which will be quite willing to testify to get themselves lenient treatment. The last guy to get arrested is the drug dealer, after his business has slowed to a trickle. Once the community spreads the word that drug buyers run a real risk of being arrested, via local media, well posted signs, people wearing community organization shirts, blazers, etc., seen on the street with video cameras and/or in community organization patrol cars, (the “Circle of Fear” as described in the book), you will find, as I did, that drug buyers will go elsewhere and dealers and suppliers will follow. Your drug-related crime statistics will drop drastically as happened in Charleston, South Carolina under police chief Ruben Greenberg and as is happening as I speak in Natchez, Mississippi, under the leadership of City Councilman Paul O’Malley and in at least one community in Sacramento, California, now employing Fight Back tactics under community leader, David Jenest.
Criminals BEWARE .... or SMILE! You're on COMMUNITY WATCH CRIME CAM!
(And around the corner, a few street cops to put teeth in Community Policing!)
News Update: February 12, 2002
The Jury is Out - One charged with attempted armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon!
Defense argues "conflicting victim identification"! What will the jury find?
The newest saga was NOT caught on tape.
The good news, both suspects were sent to prison for new cases and parole violation a year later.
Update - 2009: Dennis Maurice Bell returns to Sacramento from state prison and continues his criminal career:
Case # 04F02628 Date: 4-14-2004 Sentenced to another 5 years state prison.
Case # 06M11845 Date: 12-28-2006 Sentenced 45 days county jail.
Case # 07F04139 Date: 6-4-2007 Sentenced 32 months state prison.
Arnold Joe "A.J." Allen did not return to Sacramento County after his release from State Prison.
It's no walk in the park - especially in Boulevard Park!
1. “But that people are calling [the SN&R] and telling you that it’s not safe out there concerns me,” Najera says, “because point-in-fact, it’s safer now than it was a year ago."
If that’s the case, why, many officers wonder, are sector sergeants forced to answer calls for service, when their role is to supervise their officers? And why are officers routinely stopped from answering Priority 1 calls because no other officers are there to back them up? And how is it, both veteran supervisors and patrol officers ask, that domestic violence calls and burglary calls often go unanswered for 90 to 120 minutes, as they did last June during graveyard shifts because there were no units available in Midtown?
“It seems like our managers and the people running this city have a very different view of what we’re doing,” one patrol sergeant said. “They forget what it looks like, being in your patrol car, looking at your little computer screen, seeing all those calls pending and feeling so helpless because you can’t go.”
“The chief has made it clear that anyone who associates with Jenest, or talks about staffing problems, won’t be around much longer,” said one veteran police supervisor who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. “Venegas has even told Victor Sanchez to distance himself from Jenest,” he added. (Sanchez confirmed the story.)
But the more than 15 officers interviewed for this story--ranking sergeants, supervisors and patrol officers, either on-the-job, retired or about to resign--claimed that Jenest is correct when he says that the lives of officers and the lives of Sacramento residents are being jeopardized by the elimination of minimum staffing levels and the low number of patrol officers on the street.
“There are some people who ignore Dave because of his style,” said Kerth, the former City Councilman who represented the North Sacramento/Del Paso Heights area for eight years, prior to his recent mayoral run. “But that doesn’t make him wrong. The things he’s brought up for years are coming to pass today.”
Added retired patrol officer Steve Mauser: “We in law enforcement often [decry] public apathy and are constantly calling for our citizens to get involved. Well, this is what it looks like. If Dave wasn’t asking these questions, who would be? I think the citizens of [Midtown] should be glad he’s there.”
How soon we forget the strategies that worked to end the wave of graffiti vandalism that plagued Midtown in years past. Too many say it's ART now, yet the victims have to shell out thousands of dollars every year for cleaning up their property or face huge fines by the City. Victimized again?
Our Community Watch webcams and the CCTV system on the building where our Crimewatch Center is located, netted dozens of arrests of serial vandals. Volunteers from Neighborhood Associations worked side by side with police.
The choice today is clear: Arm yourselves with the inexpensive video cameras and webcams to protect your own.
We're often asked: What is Community Watch and why is it different than a Neighborhood Watch?
This page looked at a few of those differences from the days when we we're called a model for the rest of the city by Mayor Serna and our own City Councilman, Steve Cohn. Hundreds of courts cases, dozens of Citizens Arrests would prove the partnership worked.
You learn the truth about policing in our city from putting boots on the ground and earning the respect of the street cops that made our efforts possible. Make no mistake, we have been powerless without them.
When those officers suggested we go on the public record about their own concerns for public safety, we would face nothing but opposition to the questions we asked and even charged with operating a "Private Patrol Service" in violation of California law. We were told "Community Watch" was a police term and not to be used by civilians. It took a private attorney to face the city down and get them to back off.
What you've just read is an earlier story that seemed to attract a lot of media attention. Why? It was getting results unseen in our city before. Arrests, good prosecutions and convictions! It was about TEAMWORK with street cops when we had higher staffing levels to support our efforts.
E-mail SCCW via: email@example.com