Meeting Minutes, July 21, 2014

Officers Present:
President, Owen Martin
Vice-President, Rock Brown
Secretary, Nina Smith
Treasurer, Christine Hayes
Communications Officer, Daniel McGlynn

1. Police:
Chief Magnus,
Captain Sappal,
Our beat officers: Officers Souza and Caine

a)  Chief Magnus reports that crime is significantly down throughout the community, both property crime and violent crime.  Down 25 – 27% from last year in both property and violent crime across the board throughout the City.  Chief Magnus attributes this to the partnership between the police and the people in the community.  He thinks people are learning to call the police more and that the Department is responsive.  He stressed the importance of people calling if they see something in the neighborhood that looks a little out of the norm and attributes their success in slowing down the crime patterns to community reporting such suspicious or unusual things.  Chief Magnus spoke very highly of our beat officers.  Captain Sappal has been in this part of the City for several years.  The bad news is the City’s “challenging” financial situation.  Public Safety and the Police take a big hit because it is about 70% of the budget.  Significant cuts are required but he’s trying to do that in a thoughtful way, in a manner that maintains services people need and fairly distributes services throughout all the neighborhoods.  NNO caravans won’t be happening this year because of the cost although some of the police will be at the various celebrations.  It may not be possible to have the officer present at every Neighborhood Council meeting, although he’s hopeful that most of the time they’ll be able to attend but in a way that avoids a lot of overtime cost.  The Chief wants to continue to staff all 9 beats 24/7 – that’s the top priority but to do that he has to cut judiciously here and there.  Another example may be some cuts in the camera program, which is monitored by part-time retired officers.  Chief Magnus asks that we keep the lines of communication open, letting him and our elected officials know what our priorities are.  The City Manager is trying the same approach of judiciously distributing cuts throughout all the programs and departments.  Their hope is that increased property values will result in increased taxes and that there may be additional revenues from Chevron.  He is not changing anything fundamental about the way they provide services.

One new resource if you have a smart phone, there is a brand new Richmond Police App on the Apple App Store now and coming to the Android store within the next month.  Ultimately will have a lot of features.  Crime prevention tips and information, view calls for service, arrest log, list of beat officers and contact information, links to social media pages.  The Police Department is on Facebook.  Michelle Milam is crime prevention manager.  Chief Magnus can now also be followed on Twitter.  Everything the Chief tweets is also on the Facebook page.  The Department tries to be as transparent as possible through its use of social media.

Questions brought up additional issues: Code Enforcement was initially going to suffer substantial cuts which concerned Chief Magnus.  He talked about the importance connection between crime and blight.  Code enforcement needs a lot of work, documentation, follow-up and often legal action especially for property owners who don’t live here.  The initial plan for devastating cuts has now been pulled back because the Union agreed to defer a pay raise for a year.  Also, the specialist attorney’s contract was approved by the Council 5 to 2 (Booze & Bates opposing).  So Code Enforcement is in good shape at least for this year.  Our elected officials need to hear from the community that Code Enforcement is an important priority because they hear from the vocal people who are upset with Code Enforcement and not from the silent majority who rely on their services to keep our neighborhoods in good shape.

When Chief Magnus came to the Department the number of police officers was in the mid-140’s; now we’re in the mid-190’s but the current budget situation is moving things backwards, hopefully temporary.  The number of authorized sworn officers is still 195 but that includes about 8 to 10 frozen positions which cannot be filled because of the budget.  And on top of this there are another 5 – 6 “frictional vacancies” which means the positions can be filled but there are bureaucratic obstacles delaying actual filling of the positions.  Two of these were approved this morning.  In total, at any given time 15 plus positions are unfilled and on top of that there can be as many as 35 officers out on leave due to medical or other issues.

In response to a question about the Code Enforcement Unit, Chief Magnus said that their salaries are competitive and the ratio of supervisor to employee is 1:9 which is consistent with other departments and that kind of work in general.  Tim Higares is the manager for Code Enforcement.  The Code Enforcement attorney works out of the Police Department and makes less per hour than any other attorney the City works with and she earns more money for the City than she costs it.  She is a specialist in Code Enforcement and very good at it.

Chief Magnus would like to get away from the term “community police officer” because all good police officers are community police officers.  We’re in this together and the public identifies what the Department’s priorities are.  He sees his officers as full service police officers.  The City Council has generally been supportive of public safety.  But he’s concerned that they not become complacent due to the successes they’ve accomplished recently because problems come back if the work isn’t maintained.

b) Captain Sappal: It’s been a good year with a steady decline in property crimes but they need to continue doing what we’ve been doing to maintain these gains.  He attributes the decline in crime primarily to community involvement, Neighborhood Watch groups, and citizens calling in about suspicious things.  When people stop calling the problems increase.  Offenders test the waters initially and if people don’t call it empowers them to take the next step.  His advice: trim hedges; look out for neighbors; have motion-triggered lights; call in suspicious behaviors, have an alarm.  He emphasized that it’s critical that people call.  It doesn’t need to be criminal behavior.  The police usually just interview and get data which may become useful later when they put the pieces together.  It’s preventative too because criminals will avoid areas where people are attentive and making reports.  Since violent crime has dropped the police can spend more time on property crimes.  He agrees with the Chief about how important Code Enforcement is to preventing crime.  Calling the police is not bothering them.  If you’ve been burglarized you’re chance of being burglarized again is high.  Call even if salespeople seem suspicious.

Questions about parking and residents with multiple cars.  Once a car is red tagged it is supposed to be moved at least a mile before parking again.

A rash of home invasion burglaries where the homeowners pull up in their car and robbers strong-arm them and force their way into the home, mostly on the south side of town.

Officers are passing out crime prevention flyers in the neighborhood.

2. Council Business:
Communications Officer: will resume four page Newsletter Quarterly and Daniel asked for input for stories or other ideas for the Newsletter: respond through the Announce email or to Daniel’s email: announce@richmond-heights.org.

Treasurer’s report: $528 balance; required annual expenses: PO box $100; dues to RNCC $40.  We’d like to establish some kind of fundraising.  If people are interested we can organize a fundraising committee.  For NNO it’s traditionally been paid for by donations, by individuals or businesses.   Christine would also like to raise enough so we can donate something to a community cause such as a school, or a park.  We need some way to raise money and we’re looking for members to help out.  Last year’s NNO fundraiser raised $45.  We don’t have the 501(c)3 status and now the RNCC has stopped letting us use theirs for more than a very short-term basis.  We’re banking online so there’s no fee.  For this year’s NNO we’re going to provide water and utensils.  If you want to donate you can send a check to our PO box.  There was a suggestion to bring a donation box to monthly meetings and the NNO Potluck.  Gina reported that in the past she got a lot of money from the business on San Pablo Avenue and visited them often and kept them in the loop.  The businesses weren’t concerned about the 501(c)3 status of the Council.

3. Presentation by Mike Mahoney, a retired plumber, about a current opportunity offered by the Plumbers & Steamfitters Union to take a free class on how to pass the plumber’s test to become an apprentice plumber, fitter and welder. If you pass the test and the interview you are hired at a starting wage of at least $22 an hour although it is required that an apprentice has to go to school at DVC for 5 years, 2 nights a week, with summers off.  The apprentice gets paid for the work but not the school.  They are specifically seeking Richmond residents for this opportunity.  There are good prospects for a lot of local work.  If you’re interested in the free test preparation class call 510-334-9681. You must have a high school diploma or a GED and be at least 18.  Without the test preparation class only 12 – 15% of the candidates pass but graduates of the test preparation class have an 85% – 90% pass rate.

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