Suit up and roll out, you are now “On the Beat.” Ride along with the Santa Monica Police Department’s Neighborhood Resource Officers (NROs) as we give you important information about crime and other concerns in your neighborhood. NROs and representatives from various units within the department will provide weekly answers to questions posed by readers like you. If you have police-related questions or concerns, we’d like to hear them. Send your questions or comments to nro@smgov.net and you may see your question in our weekly column accompanied by valuable feedback for the rest of the community. While not all questions will appear in the column, all questions submitted will be answered by a department representative. Also, please note that we will supply as much information as possible without jeopardizing any legal proceedings or investigations. Remember, if you have a question, chances are, another reader may be wondering the same thing. So don’t hesitate to ask! And now, our first question:

Q: I’ve heard of the NROs, but I am not familiar with who they are, or what they do. Can you give me some info?

A: The Neighborhood Resource Officer Program was developed in January of 2008 in order to provide the community with a direct contact to the police department. It takes the “Andy Griffith,” small-town-sheriff approach aligning each of the eight NROs with each of the eight “beats” (or patrol areas) of the city. NROs attend community events and meetings, problem solve quality of life concerns, work directly with other city departments to enhance the community, and provide a face to a name for everyone in Santa Monica. For a list of the NROs and their contact information, please go the Santa Monica Police Department’s Web site at www.santamonicapd.org.

Q: I always see people removing items from the trash and recyclable containers when I’m out walking my dog. Isn’t this illegal and who do I call?

A: Yes, this is illegal and is a violation of the Santa Monica Municipal Code. Anyone who witnesses persons removing items from trash/recyclable containers should call SMPD’s non-emergency number at (310) 458-8491 and provide as much info on the individual(s) as possible (clothing description, vehicle description, direction of travel, etc.) and officers will be dispatched to the area. SMPD reminds citizens to shred all documents which contain personal information (name, date of birth, account numbers, etc.) prior to placing them in trash/recyclable containers.

Q: Is there anything that can be done about graffiti around my neighborhood? Does it mean that there are gang members in my area?

A: City Hall has a graffiti abatement program that documents and removes graffiti when residents call in to report it. The immediate removal of graffiti, especially gang graffiti, is a necessary component in the efforts against gangs and gang-associated criminal activities.

There are two types of graffiti: gang graffiti and tagger graffiti. Gang graffiti is generally associated with turf and a gang’s attempt to claim dominion and control of a neighborhood. Tagger graffiti is more of a popularity contest in which the graffiti artist is attempting to gain recognition and fame in the graffiti art world by tagging as many locations as possible. The biggest and most publicly viewed locations add to the graffiti artist’s claim to fame.

Please report graffiti to the SMPD by calling (310) 458-8491 and to the Graffiti Removal Unit by calling (310) 458-2231 or logging on to City Hall’s Web site at www01.smgov.net/communication/cityforms/graffiti-removal.htm

Community events<p>

This year’s kick-off event for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life will take place on Wednesday, March 3 at Wokcano Restaurant located at 1413 Fifth St., from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. For the past seven years, the SMPD has been active in the Santa Monica Relay for Life; a worldwide effort that helps fund research to find a cure for cancer. Lt. Ken Semko has been a chairperson for the last two years and will be helping organize the event again this year. Join us March 3 to obtain more information, sign teams up, and meet the wonderful people who organize and participate in the event. The 24-hour relay will run Saturday through Sunday, June 10 and 11, 2010. For more information visit their Web site at www.relayforlife.org/SantaMonicaCA.

Meet an officer<p>

Would you like to meet your Pico Neighborhood NRO Francisco Franco? Officer Franco will be helping out at the Fourth Annual Unity Resource Festival on Sunday March 7 from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Virginia Avenue Park (Cloverfield and Pico boulevards) in Santa Monica. This year’s festival theme is “Community Counts” in partnership with the 2010 U.S. Census and features information on city, business and non-profit agencies that strengthen the community with supportive resources. In the spirit of community service, the fair will also provide information on opportunities for residents to serve as volunteers in programs for youth and families throughout the city. Residents are asked to bring canned or packaged food as a contribution for the Westside Food Bank.

Questions for this column were answered by NRO Francisco Franco, Beat 8 (Pico Neighborhood). He can be reached at (424) 200-0688 or by e-mail: francisco.franco@smgov.net.

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