When I was in seventh grade, our math teacher called our class “retarded” for performing poorly on a math test. My mother had taught us never to make light of disabilities and to be grateful for what we had. I told her about the use of the word “retarded” for our class and she became quite rightly pissed. She was offended on behalf our class and on behalf of the kids in our school who really did have developmental challenges. My mother avoids confrontation like the plague but she called up the teacher and demanded that he apologize. And he did.
I was feeling rather defeated when I fired off a letter to police Chief Sanchez on Monday night regarding the Pasadena police department’s handling of our burglary. But my mother taught me to stand up for what you believe in and so remembering her example I did what I believed was right and spoke out. I also copied my letter to our city council district representative. We’ve had a rash of burglaries in our neighborhood and while the police have been responding to them it seems that the connections between the crimes were not being made nor was our neighborhood being given any extra police attention. Each burglary was the proverbial piece of straw – insignificant on its own but cumulatively adding up to a weightier and weightier problem. And apparently, my letter was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Less than twelve hours after I sent the letter I received a phone call from the police commander in charge of communications. She began with an apology and stated that our call was not properly prioritized. She explained that the dispatcher was new – still in a probationary period – and did not follow procedure when responding to our emergency. She stated that the dispatcher would receive a note in her file and would be retrained and that perhaps the entire dispatch team needed an update of training. We talked at length about what the stresses on the police department due to increased crime, in particular burglaries, coupled with reduced budgets mean for the future of public safety in Pasadena. She was open and honest and told me that the department has been lucky enough to avoid any officer layoffs, however, twelve support personnel have been let go in the preceding months and morale was affected. She and I both used the phrase “new reality” to describe what the future will look like. I thanked her for her candor and was left brainstorming ways that we, as citizens, can do more to work with the police. A few hours later I received a call from the police chief himself, Phil Sanchez. He apologized again for the extreme delay in responding to our call and for the officers’ nonchalance in handing our incident. He has authorized additional resources to be placed in our neighborhood immediately and stated that he shared my concerns that these crimes could escalate if not dealt with swiftly. In closing, he offered to meet with our neighborhood to discuss our concerns. I then received an email from our city councilman who offered to further coordinate a neighborhood information session with the police. At our neighborhood association board meeting tonight I spoke about our experience and our city council district representative showed up in person with more details on the police attention which will now be focused on our neighborhood. And if you life in the neighborhood and want to know more then please show up to the Santa Catalina Library Branch on Saturday February 12th at 10:30 am where the police chief, council members Gordo and McAustin, and neighbors will discuss the crime epidemic plaguing us.
I truly appreciate and am impressed by how responsive the police chief and the city government have been to my concerns. That said, we have a long way to go. On Sunday night another nearby home was burglarized and ransacked. Just last night there was a girl casing the neighborhood, pretending to solicit door-to-door while jiggling on doorknobs to see if they were locked. When a neighbor called the police after she attempted to open his door, the police had not shown up after 45 minutes. Clearly the police need to prioritize calls, not only by traditional urgency, but by location. The police are urging citizens to call for every, even slightly, suspicious activity and if they want such calls to be meaningful they need to respond quickly. But tonight, instead of feeling defeated, I feel determined. The police are paying attention now and so are the citizens of Bungalow Heaven.
Your feet are going to be on the ground,
Your head is there to move you around, so stand.