PICO / MIDCITY — The Santa Monica Police Department has hundreds of officers covering the City of Santa Monica but for a small section of SMPD employees, the city takes on a distinctly neighborhood feel thanks to their position as Neighborhood Resource Officers (NRO).
The NROs are partnered with a civilian Crime Prevention Coordinator and assigned to one of four distinct beats. There are four NRO/CPC teams within the department’s Community Affairs Division and each team is dedicated full time to their one beat providing specialized services while building an in depth knowledge of the beat.
Beat 3′s team, comprised of CPC Alexandra Sanchez and NRO Richard Verbeck will be hosting “What’s the scoop” on Thursday, Aug. 21 from 12 – 2 p.m. in the Colorado Center Park. The officers will provide ice cream and residents are encouraged to stop by to ask questions. The team said it’s a good example of their partnership and the benefits it brings to the community.
Sanchez said “What’s the scoop” offers residents a chance to interact with an officer in a relaxed, informal setting. While Verbeck can address questions about policing, she can provide information about services.
“It can help make people feel more comfortable with the officers,” she said. “He knows the laws and he gives people that perspective. I give them more the ‘OK, this is what we can do’ or offer services.”
By offering access to both kinds of information, she said the community develops a sense of trust with the department.
“Getting both perspectives is very helpful,” she said. “When we’re there, he’ll answer those technical or law enforcement questions, which I never could, and I’ll do more of the programmatic information.”
Verbeck said the CPC’s have a host of valuable services to offer, many of which even he was unaware of before joining the division.
“There are things she does that I had no clue about,” he said. “There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes and Alex just handles that.”
As part of her role as CPC, Sanchez said she follows up with residents who are victims of burglaries to offer a free security survey. The service is available to homeowners and businesses as a way to help victims prevent repeated crimes and provide peace of mind. While few crime victims capitalize on the offer, Sanchez said she makes a phone call to everyone that reports a burglary.
“I talk to the victims of all kinds of crimes to answer their questions or provide information on safety, we’re here for the aftermath of anything that happens like that.”
Sanchez said some of her projects include organizing resident academies that provide locals with an opportunity to learn about the department. She publicizes the department’s non-emergency number (458-8491) as a service for residents who may have questions or concerns and facilitates visits to local schools, neighborhood watch groups or other interested groups.
Many of the individuals at those community meetings recognize Verbeck from his patrols within the beat. Verbeck said the community policing approach has real benefits to public safety because residents feel more comfortable talking with him.
“You know the people and the people know you. It’s when I have a person call me and say ‘I’m telling you this because I trust you’ and they talk about a problem. I can reach out to the public and there’s trust. It’s not just a uniform, a man and a badge. It’s Ricky.”
He said working in the specific area provides him with a level of knowledge that helps build strong relationships.
“I have a knowledge of the history of the neighborhood,” he said. “I know the different families. On patrol, we just go where the radio takes us. As opposed to now, if I get a call on 17th Street, I might know the family next door and maybe pay them a visit to see how they’re doing. I like being given the opportunity to be someone they know and trust, that’s huge to me.”
The Beat 3 team said their area has fewer residential burglaries, auto burglaries and bike thefts as compared to the city at large. They are currently handling a small increase in commercial burglaries, mostly focused on suspects targeting alcohol from retail stores. Verbeck said overall crime numbers were down compared to this time last year. “For being the middle of summer, and our crime is down, people are getting the message,” he said.
The Community Affairs office can be reached at 458-8474. SMPD’s non-emergency number is 458-8491.