One of the key ingredients in Pleasanton's quality of life is security. A place where neighbors look out for each other and where each citizen takes ownership of their little corner of the community is a safer, better protected place.
The latest data shows that Pleasanton continues to be one of the safest cities in all of California. Violent crimes, which were rare to begin with, increased 2 percent from 2014. Part 1 crimes, which include serious offenses such as homicide, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larceny, auto theft and arson, occurred at a rate of just 17.9 per 1,000 residents, among the lowest in the Bay Area. The Pleasanton Police Department cleared - which typically means suspects were arrested and referred to the court system for prosecution - 32 percent of Part 1 crimes, higher than the statewide average of 17 percent.
Crime Prevention Officer Archie Chu credits the observant and helpful citizens of Pleasanton as playing a key role in the department's success. "People in Pleasanton are very involved in working with the police," he says. "We can't be everywhere at once, so we need them to be our eyes and ears."
While the Pleasanton Police Department is justifiably proud of its performance, the goal of Officer Chu and his partner, Community Service Officer Shannon Revel-Whitaker, is to help every entity, whether a private individual or a business, eliminate crime before it happens by taking a proactive approach to the problem. Most of the time, it's easy to do, involving only simple, common-sense practices to deter potential criminals.
"If you look at our stats, you'll see between a third and a half of all thefts from cars are because the cars are unlocked or the windows are rolled down, and people have something in the front seat," he says. "If people can remember to take stuff out of their cars, or at least put it in the trunk, and lock the doors, it would eliminate a lot of the theft from cars."
It can really be that easy. "Hiding (valuables) under a seat or jacket is not going to do it - people will break your windows just to check. It doesn't cost them anything to break your window. Leave nothing in your car, and that includes things like cables, power cords, spare change, duffel bags filled with clothes. It takes literally less than ten seconds to steal something from a car, and that includes the time it takes to break the window, so it's important to take that extra step of removing your valuables."
Employers can contribute to the cause by posting reminders at building entrances. "We had some issues last year with some of our gyms in town and so what they did to help prevent that was to put up signs up saying, 'please remove valuables from your car,' and that made a difference. When people saw the signs, they went back to their cars, took that extra step, and that reduced crime; we didn't take as many reports after that. Something that simple can help."
One of the most valuable resources the department offers to businesses is a site-specific business security survey. "If companies have needs that are particular to their business, we will tailor a presentation for them," says Revel-Whitaker. "We have information about what to do if burglary is a concern, or if robbery is a concern, and can tell owners and employees this is what we recommend in these situations and this is how we respond."
Both officers are specialists in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or CPTED. "You take the environment and change it so that it makes it very comfortable and natural for the users - the people who are supposed to be there, like the employees, the owners, the managers, the customers - and it makes it very uncomfortable for the people who aren't supposed to be there," says Chu.
"For example, we would do a walk around a building and look at the lighting and the walkways and the landscaping and how it can be trimmed or changed slightly to make it more accessible to people or less inviting to criminals. Then we can take a look at interiors and say, 'you could put a lock on this door or change this out or fix that and that would make the building a little more secure on the inside and the outside.' We can do retail, we can do residential, we've done schools, open spaces, parking garages. It can be applied to any structure."
"Obviously we're not going to come in and say, 'This wall needs to be changed and take out this window' - our recommendations are tailored for a particular environment," adds Revel-Whitaker. "For a retailer, it would be, 'Do you have appropriate signage? Are you putting your goods too close to a window? Should we think about moving some items?' Things like that."
The growing presence of private surveillance cameras has provided another opportunity for the officers to aid businesses. "Let's say you have a camera system but you have dead spots where your camera can't see," says Chu. "We might come in to suggest moving a display or changing a camera angle or adding a light. Small changes can add layers of security."
To arrange for a Business Security Survey, contact Chu at (925) 931-5222 or Revel-Whitaker at (925) 931-5242. There is no charge for the service.
Another prevention strategy is to be sensitive to things that appear out of place. Police and security officers are constantly looking for the unusual while they are out on patrol, but the public can aid their efforts by being watchful as well. The people who are apt to recognize what is out of the ordinary most quickly are the ones who are in the same place every day.
"We have people who portray themselves as employees of a business. They might piggyback with someone else going in a door," says Chu. Once they enter into an office, they go looking for the cell phone sitting on the desk or the purse or laptop that hasn't been put away.
"If you see someone who doesn't look like he belongs in the workplace, a friendly 'Hey, can I help?' is enough to let the stranger know that he has been seen. Criminals are discouraged when they lose the protection of anonymity."
Businesses can take easy steps to avoid unwanted or unexpected visitors. For example, a buzzer on the front door alerts workers that someone has entered the office. They can then come out and greet the new arrival, making sure there is a valid reason for being on the premises.
Another technique is issuing ID badges to visitors, which provides employees with a quick visual reference to who belongs in the building and who does not. Being singled out creates a deterrent that makes potential criminals realize they cannot pass unnoticed.
The underlying theme to all of these suggestions is the idea that many crimes may be prevented simply by making it less convenient for criminals to act, either by removing potential theft targets from sight or simply making it more difficult for them to go unnoticed. There is one more item in the crime prevention playbook that Chu wants everyone to understand, though.
"Never hesitate to call the police," she says. "If there is ever a debate about, 'Should I call or should I not - is it really suspicious?,' go ahead and call."
Officer Chu agrees. "Our number, 931-5100, is answered 24 hours a day, so if it's something that someone sees that just doesn't seem right but doesn't warrant a 911 call, they can call 931-5100 and someone will answer that. The person taking the call will decide what sort of response is appropriate. Of course, in the case of emergencies, people should call 911."
For day-to-day security needs within the park, another option is Hacienda Security. Officers are on high-visibility patrol 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Their presence is one of the best deterrents to crime, accidents, vandalism, and malicious mischief, and Hacienda Security officers are available to respond to a variety of security concerns ranging from nuisance issues to property management. Common security concerns that may be reported include unwanted solicitors, improperly parked vehicles, trespassing, and access difficulties, to name just a few.
Hacienda Security can be reached by phone or email around the clock. Use either the voicemail/paging system at (925) 734-6520, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org . Find a complete description of Hacienda's Security program at http://www.hacienda.org/amenities-business/security .
Officer Chu suggests these additional measures to keep the workplace safe:
As part of the effort to become more security-minded, businesses need to consider emergency preparedness. A comprehensive article about emergency preparedness in the Tri-Valley appeared in the September 2014 issue of NETWORK. Find a copy at http://www.hacienda.org/ho-network/ho-nw-2014-09-disaster-preparedness-for-business .
The Pleasanton Police Department offers this refresher on personal safety:
Pleasanton Police Department uses the following social media channels, Nixle ( Nixle.com ), NextDoor ( NextDoor.com ), YouTube ( PleeasantonPD ), Facebook ( Pleasanton Police Department ) and Twitter ( @PleasantonPD ). Information on these sites include safety tips, ongoing crime trends, active police activity, police services and social events.
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