Citizens' Awareness Academy

A look inside an Auburn police officer’s day; crime prevention tips

Police, Auburn citizens can team up to stop crime
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
-A +A

Editor’s note: Journal Staff Reporter Jon Schultz is taking part in the Auburn Police Department’s Citizens’ Awareness Academy and will be writing about his weekly experiences in Sunday’s Journal.

As much as the police do to keep citizens safe, there’s plenty of ways people can help prevent themselves from becoming a crime victim.

That seemed to be the message delivered by Sgt. Michael Garlock and Officer Carlos Castaner at the Auburn Police Department’s third week of the Citizens’ Awareness Academy.

Garlock discussed patrol procedures and officer roles, giving a look into the daily life of a police officer – from the seriousness of traffic dangers to the more lighthearted, would-you-rather-type debate about being stunned by a Taser or pepper sprayed.

Castaner talked about crime prevention techniques people can use in their daily life. Those tips hit home after he showed photos of vulnerable cars academy members had left parked outside.

Here are four highlights from the presentations.


Reality of traffic dangers

Of the 127 police officers killed across the country in 2012, 50 of them died of traffic-related injuries – one more than total amount killed by guns that year, according to Garlock.

“Clearly, our job is dangerous but it isn’t necessarily from the bad guys with the guns, it’s from the vehicles,” he said. “I’m more scared of being out on the freeway directing traffic than I am facing bad guys. If you get hit by a car going 20 miles an hour, you’re probably in trouble.”

Garlock experienced this first-hand when a drunken driver sideswiped his car while he was parked on the side of the road, talking to someone.

“It really does happen, even here in Auburn,” he said. “Oh, by the way, we caught him. I went and got in the car and went after him and stopped him.”

People are drawn to the lights, Lt. Victor Pecoraro said.

“Not only for people who are under the influence or drinking, but it’s just human. Those lights, there’s something about the colors, and the sequence that draws your eyes to it,” Pecoraro said. “So you could be stone-cold sober … and still drawn to the lights.”


Would you rather…

Officers are given the option of being stunned by a Taser and being pepper sprayed, and a majority of them opt in to the experience, Garlock said.

“I don’t really understand the logic behind it,” he said, drawing laughs.

So what feels worse?

Garlock says pepper spray; Castaner disagrees.

“It doesn’t go away right away,” Garlock said of pepper spray. “Once the Taser shuts off after 5 seconds, you can get up, walk around and walk out the door.”

Said Castaner of the Taser: “The last time that I took the ride, it was not a pleasant experience. My hand cramped up for five minutes afterward. … I’d take pepper spray and put it on my burritos.”

Some interesting Taser tidbits: Its range is up to 35 feet, though the lower barb will drop at a rate of about 1 inch every 7 feet, so accuracy suffers; each cartridge costs about $25, has a serial number, and gets filed into evidence after it is used; and it is effective through 2 inches of clothing, Castaner said.


Keep your credit info safe

Castaner gave several tips for keeping your credit card information safe from schemes thieves will use to steal it.

1. Scratch off the 3-digit security code: Ever think twice about handing over your credit card to restaurant wait staff? Probably not.

That has all your information on it, but if you scratch off the security code that is one way to help ensure it can’t be used for online transactions. Just make sure to memorize it or write it down.

2. Be careful at the pump. Credit card terminals at gas stations are on access panels that have a seal. Before using your card, take a look and make sure that seal has not been tampered with. Criminals can install a device that copies your card information.

3. At the ATM, run your finger along the card insertion area for machines that take, and hold, your card while you’re using it. Criminals can insert thin film to cause the card to become stuck, and then they will wait until you leave before retrieving your card.


‘Anyone own a BMW?’

Castaner ended the presentation by showing photos he took in the Auburn Police Department’s parking lot, where academy members had left their cars earlier. He did it to show how important it is to be mindful of securing your car and concealing its contents.

“Does anyone own a BMW?” he asked the room. “So, you leave your window down, I’ve got me a new BMW, and there’s a couple garage door openers right there … so I take your garage door openers and I take my garage door opener and I sync the numbers, and I put your garage door opener back, look at your registration and get your address.”

People had bags on the seat, mail with addresses exposed, receipts sitting in plain view, windows rolled down.

“If I wanted to be a criminal today,” Castaner said, “I’d probably be a rich one.”


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews