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Folsom police turn focus to crime prevention

Chief holds first community meeting after wave of property crimes
By: Laura Newell, Telegraph staff writer
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The Folsom Police Department is taking a proactive approach to preventing crime, if a local community meeting is any indication. Folsom Police Chief Cynthia Renaud led the effort at the Folsom Community Center Monday night with approximately 80 people in attendance from areas including Briggs Ranch, Tree House, Sierra Woods, Natoma Station, River Cannon, Willow Springs and Prairie Oaks. “We came out here as a concern for the community,” said Mary Corwin, an 18-year resident of Briggs Ranch in Folsom. The meeting also included city officials such as City Manager Evert Palmer, police officers and Folsom Citizen’s Assisting Public Safety (CAPS) volunteers. “Something that we have to remember as a community, is it takes more than officers driving around to make our city safe,” Palmer said. “We need to have community involvement and meetings like these to inform and educate people on how to stay safe and prevent crime.” Renaud discussed crime trends currently in Folsom including property crimes, vehicle and property thefts and copper wire thefts. “Property crime in Briggs Ranch has definitely occurred,” she said. “It is not unusual, but we want to end it.” Renaud said residents should start following a few crime prevention tips to keep their property safe including parking in a locked garage if possible. For people parking on the street, she reminded those to always lock vehicle doors and windows and don’t leave valuables in plain sight. “Window smash-and-grabs are very easy and quick to do,” she said. “People should hide everything valuable which includes cell phone or computer cords because this leads thieves to believe something more valuable may be hidden in the trunk.” She also said a good idea to prevent home burglaries is to be alert and remind outside intruders that someone is home. “If you hear a knock at your front door, make sure to make some noise inside or have a dog bark, so the person knows you’re home,” Renaud said. “If you stay silent and pretend not to be there, many times a burglar will use the test knock to see if someone is home then walk to the back door or window and break in.” She said the most important thing to remember is if you see something suspicious, say something – by calling the non-emergency phone number, at (916) 355-7231. “Crime is throughout the city,” Renaud said. “There is no one specific area or time getting hit more than others.” Folsom resident Steven Farfan said he is mostly concerned about the aggressive behavior of thieves in his neighborhood. “Crime hasn’t seemed to be getting worse these days, but what has seemed to change is how bold they are,” Farfan said. “With three young kids, that worries me.” Renaud said some of the boldness of criminals may be due to the sour economy. “Yes, I do agree that people have become bolder,” she said. “People may have become more desperate through these economic times. One thing that good for us however, is this is a property crime issue, not a violent crime issue. While property crimes are not good, and we want to end it, violent crimes have actually not seen a rise in our area.” Folsom Police Sgt. Robert Brown said something he has noticed after working in field for 18 years, criminals are becoming more sophisticated and are educating themselves on resident and officer behaviors. “Many times on home burglaries, people are being victimized after they leave their home,” Brown said. “So my advice is to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. Know the cars and neighbors in the area. If something is out of place, call us.” He said some tips for reporting suspicious people and vehicles is work from top to bottom, and take notes. Residents should note a person’s hat, hair, eyes, facial hair, clothing, height and shoes. When reporting a vehicle, residents should note the license plate, color, make, model and dents. He also suggested residents create a home checklist before going to bed including checking that all windows and doors are locked, that the garage door is closed and the all lights are turned off that want to be turned off. “This kind of checklist will help avoid opportunity crime,” Brown said. “Sometimes a burglar will walk past an open garage door and not be able to help themselves, even if they didn’t plan the criminal act, the opportunity provided it for them.” He also suggested that women should choose a purse to wear that’s comfortable and will securely zip shut to prevent opportunity crimes from purse thieves. If a woman takes her purse off in the grocery store and leaves it in the shopping cart, a thief can grab it unexpectedly when she turns her back. Steve and Sandy Bastear have lived in Briggs Ranch in Folsom for 20 years and were hit by thieves twice this year. “Back in September, I was one of the first people to have our car stolen in the area,” Sandy said. “They broke into my daughter’s car in the driveway and stole the garage door opener, then stole our car from our garage.” She said the car was returned within nine days. However, their bad luck didn’t stop there. “About three weeks ago, someone broke into our locked car in front of our house, taking our remote controls and other personal items,” Sandy said. “We felt horrible, and wondered how this could happen to us twice after we were so careful.” She said people should take remote control garage door openers out of cars because that is how criminals are getting into locked houses. “I definitely learned a lot tonight at the community meeting,” Sandy said. “But the biggest thing I came out to learn was where the largest and main crime areas are in Folsom.” She said she was disappointed that the meeting did not provide those statistics, instead saying “the area was being hit overall.” “It didn’t seem that they were being honest, I want to know the statistics of where crimes are trending and occurring and how it’s being done,” Sandy said. “Then I want to know what arrests are being made, if any, and if those areas are being watched more often by patrol officers.” She said the meeting seemed to turn into a “venting” session for people to question police officers on what happened to them. Sgt. Jason Browning, Folsom Police spokesperson, responded to her concern. “The police department informs the public of crime and arrest incidents through our social media formats (Nixle.com, Facebook and Twitter) as well as through the crime log on our website and through the published crime logs by the media,” Browning said. ”We are completely transparent with what’s happening criminally in the city. “Overall, there isn’t one specific community that has seen a dramatic rise in crime,” he said. “The closer you are to the freeway or retail shopping, the more likely you are to see transient through-traffic, which increases the likelihood of criminally minded opportunists. The police department recognizes this and staffs accordingly. We don’t have the lowest crime rate in the county by chance. That’s not a distinction we are willing to lose.” Still some residents are feeling the negative affect of property crime. “I don’t feel safe in my home,” Sandy said. “I like Folsom, but right now I am taking precautions to make myself safer.” After attending the meeting, other residents said they want to start neighborhood watch programs for more protection. “Maybe with all the new neighbors we have, it would be a good idea to start one up again,” said Eva Runge, a 21-year resident of Briggs Ranch. “It’s always good to know your neighbors, their schedules to better spot intruders.” Residents can follow the Folsom Police Department and stay alert on what’s happening in Folsom by liking the Folsom Police Department Facebook page, following their twitter account at @folsompolice or subscribing to nixle.com.