Ask the Chief

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The Ask The Chief' has been developed to enhance our community policing efforts by providing residents and visitors with the opportunity to ask questions about local laws, programs, and the Department in general.

Below you will find a variety of topics answered by Chief Corney and former Police Chief Pat Miller. If you have a question to ask, this is the place to do it.  E-mail Chief Corney

Ask the Chief Articles

 

2011 Part I Crimes

February 2012:  Question.  This month I watched the “State of the City” presentation by Ventura Mayor, Mike Tracy.  In his speech he mentioned a focus on public safety along with other core city services.  What can you tell me about our city’s crime rate, and how your department is addressing the situation?

Answer.  For many, crime statistics are simply the unemotional accounting of incidents involving anonymous people.  But for my Crime Fighters, behind every number they see real people whose lives have been impacted--sometimes irreparably--by these crimes. So, I not only want to provide some general information about Ventura’s 2011 Part I Crime, but share information regarding our crime fighting processes we use to effectively fight crime in our City. 

In 2011 the City of Ventura continued to lead Ventura County in the Part I Per Capita Crime rate with 34 crimes per thousand.  Comparatively, Oxnard reported 27, Thousand Oaks 15, and Simi Valley 14 crimes per one thousand residents. 

Most significant was Ventura’s rise in Violent Crime with 63 more felonious Violent Crimes reported in 2011, an increase of 24% over 2010. This includes 27 more Robberies and 34 additional Felony Assaults.  Violent Gang Crime increased by 59% with 73 crimes reported in 2011 versus 46 in 2010. 

Overall, Violent Crime solved by arrest continued to be above the most recent available national average data.  Our crime fighting efforts resulted in an overall Violent Crime clearance rate of 56%, approximately 6% better than the 2009 national average for cites in the 100,000 to 250,000-population range. 

Although the release of local crime statistics is generally publicized on a once a year basis, the business of effective crime fighting requires a much more frequent review of crime data.  A vital tool for our officers is the availability of timely intelligence of crime trends and areas of high calls for service to allow for proactive crime fighting strategies.

Our efforts to provide timely intelligence throughout our Crime Fighting Team include weekly crime briefings that bring together representatives from all aspects of the department.  Our Crime Analysis team presents crime and call for service data from the last seven days.  This information is thoroughly discussed and reviewed, and actionable strategies are implemented in an effort to aid in our response to identified trends.  Strategies not only include patrol and investigative follow through, but also public information strategies to increase our crime fighting outreach and partnerships within the community. The results of our efforts are further evaluated at monthly supervisor meetings and quarterly strategic goal meetings.  

As you can see, our department constantly evaluates and strives to direct resources to meet the dynamic nature of crime in our community.  Unfortunately, given the extent of the economic conditions, and despite our best efforts, current staffing levels significantly limit the reallocation of resources without considerable negative impact to other areas of crime in our community.  As a result, there is a clear nexus between the current increase in crime and reductions in our crime fighting resources.  However, I am pleased with our crime solving results that demonstrate the continued effort and commitment of your Ventura Police Crime Fighting Team who continue to proudly protect and serve our community. 

Sincerely,

Police Chief, Ken Corney

Disbanding Of Gang Unit & Impact on Crimes

November 2011:  Question:  I recall the police department temporarily disbanded the gang unit back in February.  Has the department reestablished the unit and has there been an effect on gang crimes in our community?  

Answer:  Thank you for the question. As a result of budget reductions and staffing issues, I made the decision to temporarily disband our gang unit, otherwise known as the Special Enforcement Team (SET), in February 2011.   We reassigned four of the gang officers to patrol operations to help maintain minimum staffing levels.   Two of the officers were transferred to our Major Crime Investigations Unit assigned specifically to conduct follow up investigations on reported violent gang crimes.   

The decision was intended to be a temporary measure until officers who had been injured in the line of duty were able to return to full duty status.  Unfortunately, the department continued to experience a significant injury rate and several of those injuries have required surgery and long-term recovery.  This, combined with the elimination of 15 sworn officer positions resulting from the economic downturn, has created a new reality for the Ventura Police Department; officer injuries and vacancies definitely have a greater impact on our crime fighting capabilities.  

Despite these challenges, our department has continued to adjust and reorganize our existing resources to allow us to best fight crime in our community.  However, as a former gang investigator I had serious concerns when I disbanded the gang unit that the lack of a proactive gang enforcement team could lead to a long-term increase in violent gang crime.  The circumstance I could not predict was how long it would take before a pattern of increased gang related violence would occur.  Sadly, the last few months have revealed a noticeable upswing in gang related violent crime.  From February of this year (when the unit was disbanded) until September 30 (latest month for which results are available) there have been 55 violent gang crimes reported. This is an increase of 57% when compared to the same time period last year in which 35 violent gang crimes were reported. 

In response to this troubling trend, we are working within our existing resources to deploy personnel for targeted gang enforcement in areas of increased gang activity.  We also have provided our existing patrol force with timely intelligence on gang activity to assist them in responding most effectively to both calls for service and self initiated crime fighting activities.  In a perfect world we could reassign or shift resources back to the gang unit however, given the continued economic challenges on local governments, and other increased resource demands such as vagrant criminal behavior, increases in non-gang related violent crimes, and certain property crimes, there is no simple solution. 

Thank you for you for your question.  You can rest assured that throughout the challenges of these trying times the spirit and dedication of our Ventura Police crime fighting team continues to protect and serve this community with integrity, fairness, courage, compassion and service before self. 

Sincerely,

Ken Corney, Police Chief

Downtown Parking Pay Stations

June 2011:  Question:  Have the Downtown Parking Meters had any effect on making the Downtown area any safer?

Answer:  Thank you for the question. This September will mark one year since the Downtown Parking Management Program has been active and yes, from the law enforcement side we have noticed a positive difference in a number of areas.

First and foremost is an increased police presence throughout the Downtown Corridor. Officers patrol the Downtown area as part of their regular patrol functions however, we conduct parking enforcement via a Corporal who supervises nine Cadets who have been assigned to the Downtown area. These extra ten individuals allow for a far greater police presence and visibility Downtown.  Our Officers and Cadets are there to help and their presence has also allowed us to better respond to Calls For Service (CFS) as needed, report incidents, answer people’s questions, or address their concerns.  It should also be noted that revenue generated through the parking program helps to pay for these positions.  
To better highlight the impact that an increased police presence has had I have included a chart below that shows various CFS during the first six months of the meters having been installed compared to the same time frame a year before.
 

  Sept. 1, 2009 through March 30, 2010 Sept. 1, 2010 through March 30, 2011 % Change
Total Reported Calls For Service (CFS) 5,097 4,341 15% Decrease
Crimes Reported 120 72 40% Decrease
Thefts 89 31 65% Decrease

 

Another area in which we have seen a benefit is in the improved traffic flow as a result of the freeing up of the on-street premium parking spaces. . Prior to the pay stations having been installed, visitors to Downtown and many of the Downtown business employees, would first look to park in the premium street parking.  Visitors would often circle the streets a number of times, or drive very slowly down Main Street in the hopes of a spot opening up. Since the implementation of paid parking, we have now found there appears to be far more turnover of spaces which in turn has resulted in improved traffic flow and much less vehicle congestion on Main Street.  People visiting Downtown who do not wish to pay for the premium on-street parking, can easily park at one of the convenient free City lots, including the Santa Clara Parking Structure rather than drive around looking for an open space.  

Finally, I want to point out that in these struggling economic times, the City was able to add police personnel to specifically patrol the Downtown area with money generated from the Parking Management Program.  It’s important to keep in mind that all net revenue from the parking meters is dedicated to making our Downtown safer, cleaner, and more attractive to local and visiting customers.  Overall, I believe the program has been a success for the safety of our Downtown community and visitors.  

Sincerely,

Police Chief, Ken Corney  

Panhandlers

11/05/2007 Question: Last week (November 4) I saw an article in the VC Star that discussed panhandling, many of the facets that may lead to or even encourage panhandling, and how a campaign was being developed to discourage handouts to panhandlers by City and business officials. The article briefly discussed how and when panhandling becomes illegal, but I was wondering if you could provide additional information on how it becomes illegal to panhandle?

Answer: This is a topic I am asked about often, and one, which affects many of us -- our community, its image, tourists, and potentially the economic vitality of Ventura. The issue of panhandlers/panhandling is often tied to our homeless population and as I mentioned in the article, homelessness is a community/social issue and not just an enforcement issue. Some members of our homeless community do engage in panhandling and for the purposes of this article I will address the behavioral component of panhandling/panhandlers.

Panhandling, essentially asking an individual for money, is not illegal in Ventura. What is illegal, and where enforcement may take place by an officer, is when the panhandling becomes aggressive in nature.

Aggressive behavior may include:

  • Intimidation
  • Intentionally touching or causing physical contact while panhandling
  • Verbal threats or using profane or abusive language towards the person being solicited
  • Continuing to solicit after a person has said no
  • Intentionally blocking or interfering with one’s free passage
  • Using violent/threatening gestures while asking for money
  • Persisting in closely following or approaching someone with the intent to panhandle

Additionally, panhandling is illegal when and where the behavior occurs in a specific prohibited area. Prohibited areas include:

  • On private property, unless the solicitor has permission from owner/tenant
  • Bus and train stops
  • Within fifty feet of an automated teller machine
  • Outdoor dining areas of restaurants or other dining establishments serving food for immediate consumption
  • In a line waiting to gain admission to a place or vehicle or waiting to purchase an item or admission ticket; or
  • While standing in any portion of the public right-of-way, including but not limited to public streets, highways, sidewalks and driveways, to solicit from any person traveling in a vehicle along a public right-of-way, including, but not limited to, public streets, highways or driveways

I believe many of us, and not just those of us working in law enforcement, are frustrated with the inability to enforce aggressive panhandling behavior that can take place in Ventura. It is unfortunate these types of incidents happen and more often than not they tend to happen rather quickly. As a result, when a call of aggressive panhandling is received by our department often times the confrontation is over, or no longer aggressive in nature, by the time our officers arrive on scene.

Another question I am asked is why not do an undercover panhandler operation, similar to a prostitution sting, and arrest those who become aggressive? We have done these types of operations in the past however, they do not lend the types of results (arrests/citations) comparable to say a prostitution sting. These operations are not productive when we weigh our resources and personnel levels against the potential of citing/arresting an individual(s) over the course of a multi-hour operation.

My advice on how to handle aggressive panhandlers is to be non-confrontational, do not engage them in any means (conversational or physical) and to simply continue about your own business. I realize this is probably not the advice many would want to hear however, simply asking for a “hand out” is not illegal. Of course, if there is aggressive behavior (blocking paths, physical contact, using offensive language, following you) or it occurs in one of the prohibited areas previously mentioned, then please call 911 immediately and provide the dispatcher with information on how the officer can follow-up with you to obtain more information

Also as discussed in the article, City and business officials have developed a campaign aimed at discouraging individuals from handing out money to panhandlers. Instead, individuals, should they wish to give money, should make a donation to many of the social services organizations in Ventura such as Turning Point, Project Understanding, or through the City’s Social Services Department. For additional information I encourage you to contact the City of Ventura’s Community Services Division, at 805-658-4707.

Obviously simply finding another way to make a donation to a panhandler is not a long-term solution to the multitude of issues which exist and may contribute to panhandling/homelessness in the first place. I know the issue is being addressed and there are multiple parties involved, including the Ventura Police Department, working towards finding a solution that benefits all parties.

Sincerely,

Pat Miller

Abandoned and Oversized Vehicles

10/02/2007 Question: In and around my neighborhood I often see the same trailer and RV parked on the street for an extended period of time and was wondering if it is legal to park your RV or trailer on a city street, and if so for how long? Also, if a car looks like it has been there for a long time can it be towed?

Answer: Yes, with a free permit, you are allowed to park your RV or trailer, both of which are considered oversized vehicles, on city streets. An oversized vehicle means any vehicle which exceeds twenty-five feet in length; or exceeds eighty inches in width; or exceeds eighty-two inches in height. An oversized vehicle does not include pickup trucks, which are less than twenty-five feet in length and eighty-two inches in height.

In order to park your oversized vehicle on a city street you must first notify our Department’s Traffic Unit by calling 805.339.4401. When you call and speak with an individual in our Traffic Unit please be prepared to provide as many details about the vehicle as possible (i.e., license plate, address where vehicle will be parked, make, model, color, etc.). The information will be entered into a database and marked as “permitted” within the database. Once the vehicle has been marked as permitted you may park it on the street for a period of no more than five consecutive calendar days and no more than ten days total within any consecutive ninety day period. We are also currently in the process of adding a form to our website (www.venturapd.org) where individuals can notify us via an online process.

If you suspect a vehicle in your neighborhood has been abandoned or does not run, then you can call the Abandoned Vehicle Hotline at 805.339.4432. This phone number will connect you with an answering machine and you will need to have the color, make, model, license plate number, and the address where the vehicle is parked in order to leave a message.

Each morning, Monday through Friday, a Traffic Officer will download the information from the Abandoned Vehicle Hotline into a database. This information will be printed and the Officer will set out to mark the vehicles on the list. Some of the information on the list may consist of vehicles that have already been marked. As the Officer sets out for the day they will select vehicles which are ready to be towed (have been there for greater than seventy-two hours), and tow them. Their day will consist of marking and towing vehicles from the list.

The City of Ventura has an ordinance, 16.210.040C SBCO, against parking a vehicle more than seventy-two hours on a city street at any given time. To avoid a possible infraction the vehicle must be driven at least 2/10 of a mile (the odometer must actually show that movement). The seventy-two hours begins when the Officer marks the vehicle. The odometer, date, and time marked, will be recorded on their log. At the end of the day, the database will be updated with the marked information. The next day the process will start over again.

The City of Ventura has an abandoned vehicle program in place as a means to protect public health and safety and for among other things, to help keep our streets free of litter, and to ensure vehicles parked along city streets, or other public rights-of-ways, do not hinder, obstruct, or otherwise endanger drivers engaged in the ordinary flow of traffic.

If your vehicle is towed, due to being considered “abandoned”, the cost to obtain a release is $158. In order to obtain a release the vehicle's registered owner must have a current registration for the vehicle, a valid driver's license, and no outstanding parking violations. If the registered owner does not have a valid driver's license then a person with a valid license must be present with the vehicle owner.

I encourage you to visit our website at www.venturapd.org where you can learn more about our Traffic Unit including information on oversized vehicles, the Abandoned Vehicle Program, impound fees, how to contest a parking citation, payment of a parking citation, and much more.

Sincerely,

Pat Miller

School Bus Red Light Law

September 2007. 

For this month’s Ask The Chief article rather than answer a particular question from the public I want to address and clarify the Red Light Law for school buses. I feel this is a very timely topic especially since many children recently returned, or are in the process of returning, to school from the summer break. Additionally, I have provided some helpful information on crosswalks and pedestrian right of way.

The Red Light Law for school buses can seem a bit daunting at times, particularly when there are different situations regarding when and when not to pass a school bus with red flashing lights or when the bus’ STOP sign is displayed. We have all seen a school bus with the STOP sign or red lights flashing as they pick up and/or drop off children. At times people stop but very often people continue to drive by the bus. The obvious question is what exactly is the law and when is it okay to pass or not pass a school bus?

In October of 1999 a legislative bill (AB 1573, Strom-Martin, Chapter 647) was enacted which changed the way school bus drivers use the flashing amber warning and flashing red signal light/STOP signal arm system on busses. Essentially, there are five different scenarios regarding the Red Light Law, which are depicted and described below.

Scenario 1, Two-Lane Roadway: In this situation there is a single lane of traffic in either direction with solid double yellow lines dividing each lane. When a school bus stops for passengers, all traffic from both directions must stop.

Scenario 2, Two-Lane Roadway with a Center Turning Lane: In this situation there is a single lane of traffic in either direction with a turn lane or center two-way left turn lane dividing each lane. When a school bus stops for passengers, all traffic from both directions must stop.

Scenario 3, Four-Lane Roadway without a Median Separation: In this situation there are two lanes of traffic in either direction and solid double yellow lines dividing the lanes. When a school bus stops for passengers, only traffic following the bus must stop.

Scenario 4, Divided Highway of Four Lanes or more with a Median Separation: In this situation there are two or more lanes of traffic in either direction with a median separating the lanes from one another. When a school bus stops for passengers, only traffic following the bus must stop.

Scenario 5, Roadway of Four Lanes or more with a Center Turning Lane: In this situation there are two or more lanes of traffic in either direction with a turn lane or center two-way turn lane separating the lanes from one another. When a school bus stops for passengers, only traffic following the bus must stop.

I am sure many of you are wondering about the fine for passing a school bus while its warning indicators are displayed. In the State of California the fines can range from $150 for a first time offense and up. Additional offenses can be upwards of $1,000 based upon the judge’s discretion.

I hope the scenarios described here help to clarify the Red Light Law for school buses. Perhaps the easiest thing to remember about the law is that the driver of a vehicle on a divided highway, or multiple-lane highway, does not need to stop for a school bus on the other side of the street. In all other situations you should pull over and stop for the safety of our children.

When it comes to crosswalks and pedestrian safety the number one rule you need to remember is pedestrians have the right of way. When you approach a crosswalk where a pedestrian is waiting to cross you should come to a complete stop and let the individual cross through the crosswalk entirely. Once the pedestrian reaches the other side of the crosswalk you may proceed. You should not simply wait for the individual to pass the front of your vehicle and then proceed. Often times an individual may change their mind halfway through the crosswalk and wish to return to their original starting point. In this example, had you proceeded once the pedestrian passed your vehicle you risk the chance of injuring them, yourself, and others. This is why it is always best to wait until the pedestrian safely reaches the other side of the street.

For additional information as it relates to the school bus Red Light Law, or pedestrian/crosswalk safety, you may contact our Traffic Unit Sergeant, Sergeant Ryan Weeks at 805-339-4309, via e-mail at rweeks@venturapd.org, or contact the Department of Motor Vehicles at 800-777-0133 or via their website at www.dmv.ca.gov.

Taken from the September 2007 Ask The Chief Article submitted by former Police Chief, Pat Miller

 

Graffiti Investigator Position

07/01/2007 Question: Recently I have noticed graffiti in and around our neighborhood. The City seems to paint over the graffiti pretty quickly but I am wondering if you can you describe what efforts your Department and the City are taking to combat graffiti in Ventura?

Answer: The Ventura Police Department and the City of Ventura are committed to eradicating graffiti through a partnership with Public Works, the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD), Ventura County Probation and District Attorney’s Office, community involvement, and education.

Since the correlation between graffiti and gang-related incidents is well-documented, we believe it is vital for the safety of our community that we have an aggressive and coordinated anti-graffiti effort. Thus, our Department has assigned Corporal Al Gomez to investigate and reduce graffiti/vandalism. Corporal Gomez is assigned to our Department’s Special Enforcement Team (SET) which focuses primarily on gang crimes within the City. The primary purpose and scope of the SET/Graffiti Investigator is to establish a program to identify graffiti, the persons responsible for graffiti, and known criminal activity pertaining to tagging crews and criminal street gangs.

Through our partnerships, we are currently working on a process where people who vandalize property will be held not only criminally responsible for the offense, but also civilly liable for damages. Those arrested for graffiti violations will be assessed restitution to cover the costs of repair including the time, labor, and materials required to cover-up and repair the graffiti/vandalism. The local graffiti ordinance is also being updated to reflect current state laws and to hold parents accountable for damage caused by their child. Additionally, Corporal Gomez will request formal probation for all juveniles arrested for this type of crime. Formal probation allows us to exercise search terms on the subject(s) and their property in order to determine if they continue to be involved in illegal activity.

Additionally, through the use of technology, our Department has recently taken a significant step forward in our efforts to combat graffiti. Corporal Gomez is now using a web-based GPS software database program called Graffiti Tracker. When a photograph is taken of the graffiti/vandalism, he enters it in the Graffiti Tracker program. Photographs in the system include those taken by members of our Department (Corporal Gomez, Patrol Officers, SET, Volunteers In Policing members, etc.), Public Works’ Graffiti Removal Unit, and VUSD officials. The photos are documented and recorded in the system, creating a central database. This helps us to identify suspects, collect and analyze information (such as trends and patterns) relating to affected areas, assesses the costs associated with the incident(s), and provide additional information in deterring future incidents.

Experience has shown that removing graffiti as soon as it occurs is the best prevention against future graffiti. In addition to the steps we take, everyone can help eliminate/reduce graffiti and vandalism in our City. We encourage people to:

---- Report graffiti immediately by calling the Graffiti Hotline at 805-654-7805. The Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The City’s Public Works Department strives to remove all graffiti within 48 hours from the time a call is received.
---- You can also report graffiti by sending an e-mail to graffiti@ci.ventura.ca.us.
---- If you see graffiti in progress, report it by calling 9-1-1. Don’t try to intervene.
---- Contact the property owner whose building has been vandalized and stress the importance of quick cleanup. Form a neighborhood group to help property owners clean up graffiti quickly.
---- Prevent graffiti. Rapid removal tells vandals that people care about their place of business and neighborhood and that their work has little chance of being seen.
---- Plain smooth surfaces invite graffiti. For walls, choose patterned and rough concrete surfaces or tiled or mosaic surfaces; for fences, use chain, lattice, or wooden picket fences.
---- Choose paints and coating to deter graffiti. Dark colors make graffiti harder to see. Anti-graffiti coatings are available as well.
---- Plant trees, shrubs, or climbing vines to restrict access to tempting walls. Plants with thorns or strong scents are good deterrents.
---- Use proper lighting to deter vandals from popular graffiti sites.

It often takes persistence, but by working together we can help keep our community clean, and the effects of graffiti and vandalism to a minimum.

Sincerely,

Pat Miller

Alcohol Ordinance and Responsible Retailer Program

04/01/2007 Question: I recently saw an article in the Ventura County Star which discussed how alcohol is now prohibited at Arroyo Verde Park. I was wondering if you could provide some additional information regarding this policy and any other steps your department is taking regarding alcohol awareness and enforcement efforts.

Answer: The revised ordinance, which was recently passed by the City Council, now prohibits alcohol consumption at Arroyo Verde Park, in addition to all City Parks. Alcohol consumption in any park now requires a permit.

I realize that by time this article appears, Easter Sunday will have passed so we will have a better idea on whether the revised ordinance had an impact on the number of calls for service in our parks. Traditionally, Easter Sunday is by far the busiest day of the year at our parks and the number of alcohol related calls have been enormous. Obviously we want everyone to enjoy their Easter celebrations but the number of calls for service, especially at Arroyo Verde Park, continued to increase year after year. Excessive consumption of alcohol, large crowds, tons of litter and garbage, fights, and even gang activity, were all factors in the creation of this ordinance.

Our Department prides itself on working with our community to make Ventura a safe and prosperous community. Along these lines, in January of 2006 we enacted a new alcohol permit and fee process and with those funds, we selected Officer Patrick Lindsay as our Alcohol Enforcement Officer. Officer Lindsay oversees all Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) licenses and alcohol sales permits within the City. Officer Lindsay works with businesses and assists them with ABC rules and regulations, licensing, liquor sales, and employee sales of alcohol. His goal is to ensure they understand, and are in compliance with, their alcohol permit through enforcement and education, especially issues like underage drinking and sales to minors.

Additionally, our Department has just launched a new Responsible Retailer Program (RRP) for all Alcohol Beverage Establishments (ABEs) in the City of Ventura. The program was developed in cooperation with Ventura County Behavioral Health Department (Ventura County Limits), Ventura Adult/Continuing Education (VUSD) and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). The RRP is designed to provide ABEs with valuable information in order to maintain a safe and responsible business as it pertains to the sale and service of alcoholic beverages.

The overall goal of the RRP is to improve public health and safety in our community by increasing the awareness of the dangers that result from improper sales and service of alcoholic beverages, particularly to minors and those who may already be intoxicated. Our Department, in conjunction with the aforementioned agencies and organizations, will provide ABEs with responsible beverage sales and service information aimed at:

---- Providing retailers with a clear understanding of state and local alcohol regulations.
---- Limiting retailer’s liability due to unsafe alcohol sales and service practices.
---- Teaching owners, managers, and their staff the skills to refuse sales to minors and intoxicated persons.
---- Assisting retailers with the specifics of store or house policies.
---- Being a liaison by educating and helping retailers avoid problems and penalties.

Beginning the week of April 8, Officer Lindsay, along with members of the Department’s Volunteers In Policing (VIP) team, formally introduced the program. The RRP also consists of a questionnaire, a pledge form for retailers that demonstrates their participation in the program, and signage comprised of various decals, stickers, placards, and posters, to be installed at their place of business. Although the RRP is voluntary in nature, we truly hope all ABEs will embrace this program and help make our community safer by practicing safe alcohol sales and service.

To learn more about the RRP, or the recently introduced ordinance prohibiting alcohol in City parks, I encourage you to visit our website at www.venturapd.org or you may call/e-mail Officer Lindsay at 805.339.4453 or plindsay@ci.ventura.ca.us.

Together we can make Ventura a better place.

Pat Miller

Alarm and Non-Injury Accident Policy Changes

01/13/2007 Question: Recently, (January 2, 2007) I read an article in the Ventura County Star that discussed how your Department was reducing certain services. I was wondering if you could provide some information as to how you reached this decision and provide a little more detail on the new policies?

Answer: We are in the unenviable position of having to reduce or eliminate certain services so as to focus our resources on those areas where we can make the most impact.

I want to stress that these policies are being introduced in an effort to better serve our community and to reduce crime and the fear of crime in Ventura, our foremost goal. Our mantra here at the Department is that we can do anything --- we just can’t do everything with the resources we currently have available. 2006 was a clear example of this.

In October of 2005 we introduced our Strategic Plan, entitled Measuring What Matters, and its five goals (Reduce Crime and the Fear of Crime, Improve the Quality of Life in Our Neighborhoods, Enhance Community Partnerships, Develop Personnel, and Continued Accountability). After more than a year of measuring ourselves against the goals we so clearly defined we have had an opportunity to evaluate our accomplishments.

In many areas I am encouraged by our accomplishments to date*.
o Property Crime is down 7.5%
o Calls for service within the top Reporting Districts are down by over 3%
o Injury accidents are down by more than 7%
o Community involvement in police programs is up by 13%

Of course, for all the accomplishments, there are other areas that cause concern:
o Violent crime is up over 6%
o Gang related incidents have skyrocketed 196%
o Our Department manages to respond to Priority 1 (emergency) calls, in five minutes or less, only 54% of the time (our goal is 90%)

(*Please note, the above statistics are as of November 30. December numbers were not finalized at the time this article was written).

As a result of disturbing trends like these, coupled with our current resources, our Department must utilize those resources wisely and in areas where we can have the most impact. Our first and foremost goal, as I indicated above, is to reduce crime and the fear of crime in our community. Our hope is these new policies will help us to decrease our response times to emergency calls for service and reduce the number of gang involved crimes.

Non-Injury Traffic Accident Policy: As of January 1, 2007 our Department is no longer investigating non-injury traffic accidents. An officer still responds to ensure driver information is exchanged and we generate a report number documenting the location and time of the collision. Driver information is kept on file at the Police Department. Officers continue to conduct investigations of injury accidents and take enforcement action when evidence of criminal violations, such as a suspended license, hit and run, or Driving Under the Influence (DUI), are involved.

Verified Alarm Response Policy: Effective January 15, 2007. Presently, over 98% of alarms handled by our Department are false. The time spent responding and investigating false alarms significantly detracts from our efforts to reduce crime and respond to priority calls for service. As a result, our new procedure is as follows:

· Between the hours of 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM the Ventura Police Department will only respond to burglary alarms that have been verified. A verified alarm is one whereby the alarm company has confirmed the legitimacy of criminal activity. This includes verification through the use of video surveillance, electronic listening device(s), or other visual verification by persons either on or near the alarm location.
· Exclusions to the verified response include, robbery, panic and intrusion alarms. Our Department will continue to respond in its customary manner to these types of alarms calls.
· We will respond to all alarms between the hours of 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM.
· Our City Ordinance pertaining to alarm registration and false alarm fees will also be amended for multiple false alarm responses to a single location.

Should you have questions regarding our new policies please contact Lieutenant Quinn Fenwick regarding our Non-Injury Traffic Accident Policy, and Lieutenant David Wilson for our Alarm Response Policy.

All of us the Ventura Police Department hope these new polices will help to make Ventura safer and focus on what matters most.

Sincerely,

Pat Miller

Holiday Crime Prevention Tips

12/01/2006 Each month I have an opportunity to answer questions from the public on a variety of topics. This month however, I want to discuss holiday safety and crime prevention tips.

As the holidays approach, many of us find our lives a bit more hectic as we do our holiday shopping and preparations. It’s important to be prepared and to pay attention to our surroundings. It is even more important during the holiday season when we traditionally see an increase in auto thefts, thefts from vehicles, and identity theft.

Did you know approximately 50% of all stolen vehicles and thefts from vehicles occur because the doors were left unlocked, or the keys left in them? Did you know just one theft from a vehicle, say of a purse, wallet, laptop, or other item which may contain, or lead a thief to your identifying information can often result in another five to ten crimes committed?

While these statistics are alarming, they increase during the holiday season as the malls, stores, and parking lots become more crowded. An unlocked door, a wallet left on the front seat of a car, an unattended purse in a grocery cart while shopping, or mail left in an unsecured receptacle are open invitations to thieves.

The vast majority of vehicle thefts, thefts from vehicles, and identity theft crimes are simply “crimes of opportunity”. Perpetrators often look for the "easiest" target and prey upon those who leave themselves vulnerable. The good news however, is there are numerous crime prevention measures you can take to avoid being a victim. The simplest, and easiest, begins with common sense.

Top Vehicle Theft Prevention Tips:
· Pay attention and be aware of your surroundings!
· Lock your car and set the alarm if you have one.
· Always take your keys with you and do not leave them in your vehicle.
· Remove all valuables from your vehicle and do not leave them in plain sight.
· Do not leave the keys in the ignition or your vehicle running, not even for a “minute”. Vehicles are commonly stolen at convenience stores, gas stations, ATMs, etc.
· Never hide a second set of keys in your car. Extra keys can easily be found.
· Park in well lit areas.

Top Identity Theft Prevention Tips:
· Promptly remove mail from your mailbox.
· Deposit outgoing mail at your local Post Office. Do not leave mail in unsecured mail receptacles.
· When shopping, keep your purse close to you and secured.
· Never give out personal information over the telephone to someone you don’t know. This includes your social security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, credit card numbers, or your PIN number.
· Shred pre-approved credit applications, credit card receipts, bills, and other financial information before discarding them in the trash.
· Memorize your social security number, all PIN numbers, and passwords. Do not record them on any cards or documents carried in your wallet or purse.
· Order your credit report from the three credit bureaus once a year to check for fraudulent activity.
· If you use the Internet:
o Make sure your anti-virus definitions are up to date.
o Install a firewall.
o Never give out sensitive password or account information.
o Beware of e-mails asking for your password or account information. Often times these are scams.
o When entering account information, or making purchases online, make certain you are visiting a secure website.

We hope these tips help you to combat crime. A more comprehensive list, along with additional crime prevention information, can be found on our website at www.venturapd.org or by contacting Police Services Officer Laura Robinson at 805.339.4403 or via e-mail at lrobinson@ci.ventura.ca.us.

All of us at the Ventura Police Department wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

Sincerely,

Pat Miller

Red-Light Cameras - Redflex

11/11/2006 Question: Can you please tell me a little about how the red-light cameras at intersections work and how tickets are issued to people?

Answer: Red light violations, and the collisions which often occur as a result of running a red light, are the leading cause of death and serious injury in traffic accidents.

To combat this, the City of Ventura has contracted with Redflex Traffic Systems to install digital cameras at specific intersections around the city. The intersections chosen for enforcement were selected based on accident frequency, traffic volume, history of violations, and the location’s design. The systems have been in place since 2001 and have proven to make a difference. We have seen a 40% decrease in the number of accidents/injury accidents where Redflex Traffic Systems are installed.

The Redflex system uses two digital cameras that are installed at each of the selected intersections. One takes a photo of the front of the vehicle to identify the driver; the second takes a series of wide-angle photos from the rear, with the traffic signal shown in each frame. These images are downloaded daily to Redflex, who inspects the images for quality and checks with the DMV for vehicle owner information. The photos and DMV information are then sent to our Traffic Unit. Once at the Police Department the images are reviewed and either approved or rejected depending on each individual violation. The approved violations are sent back to Redflex, who then mails a Notice to Appear, commonly called a citation, to the violator.

The citation includes a photo showing the vehicle behind the limit line when the signal was red and another showing the vehicle moving through the intersection. Also included is information on the vehicle’s speed and the timing of the yellow and red signal phase. The image from the rear is enlarged to show the vehicle’s license plate, so our system is not dependent on a front plate. The photo from the front is enlarged to show the driver’s face, but passenger’s faces are deliberately blurred for their privacy.

One question which many people often have is, “What can be done if someone else (other than the registered owner) was driving the vehicle when the violation occurred”? Anyone receiving a Notice to Appear can use a form, included with the citation, to identify the person driving the vehicle on the day of the violation. Failure to respond to the citation can result in a registration hold being placed on the vehicle through the DMV. If this happens it may result in the vehicle being impounded, at the owner’s expense, for failure to properly register the vehicle. Mailed notices can be contested in court or by mail, in the same manner as traditional traffic citations.

The Redflex system is just one tool we are using to improve the safety of our streets. If you have questions or need additional information about red light violations, please call our Traffic Unit at 805-339-4375.

Together we can make a difference,

Pat Miller

Graffiti Tagging

09/13/2006 Question: The side of my business was recently ‘tagged’ with graffiti. Is this a gang incident and can you tell me what steps I can take to try and prevent this from happening again? Also, can you describe what efforts your Department and the City are taking to reduce graffiti in our City?

Answer: The Ventura Police Department and the City of Ventura are committed to promptly removing graffiti from public areas. Experience has shown that removing graffiti as soon as it occurs is the best prevention against future graffiti.

There are several steps you can take to prevent future graffiti tagging .

-- Report graffiti immediately by calling the Graffiti Hotline at 805-654-7805. The Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The City’s Public Works Department strives to remove all graffiti within 48 hours from the time a call is received.
-- You can also report graffiti by sending an e-mail to graffiti@ci.ventura.ca.us.
-- If you see graffiti in progress, report it by calling 9-1-1. Don’t try to intervene.
-- Contact the property owner whose building has been vandalized by graffiti and stress the importance of quick cleanup. Form a neighborhood group to help property owners clean up graffiti quickly.
-- Prevent graffiti. Rapid removal tells vandals that people care about their place of business and neighborhood and that their work has little chance of being seen.
-- Plain smooth surfaces invite graffiti. For walls, choose patterned and rough concrete surfaces or tiled or mosaic surfaces; for fences, use chain, lattice, or wooden picket fences.
-- Choose paints and coating to deter graffiti. Dark colors make graffiti harder to see. Anti-graffiti coatings are available as well.
-- Plant trees, shrubs, or climbing vines to restrict access to tempting walls. Plants with thorns or strong scents are good deterrents.
-- Use good lighting to deter vandals from popular graffiti sites.

Graffiti can also be one of the first signs that gangs may be moving into an area. Gang members use graffiti to mark their turf, advertise their exploits, challenge or threaten rival gangs, and intimidate individuals who may live and work in the area. Although tagging is often the most noticeable sign of gang activity, other signs to watch for include an increase in vandalism, petty theft, fights, and delinquent behavior.

Unfortunately, we have seen a dramatic increase in gang activity during the first seven months of 2006. Gang related crimes are up 184%, from 81 incidents reported to 230 incidents reported during the same period last year. Graffiti incidents are also up over 75% during this same period. Our Department makes every effort to reduce gang crimes through early intervention, enforcement, and prevention but we are currently faced with the reality of being significantly understaffed and forced to cut back on programs in order to adequately patrol our streets.

For example, our gang unit (Special Enforcement Team, SET) has been reduced by more than half in only a year’s time. Additionally, if you regularly read my monthly article, you will recall last month I spoke about our School Resource Officer (SRO) program being canceled at the start of the 2005/2006 school year. Our SRO program had been in existence for over seven years and was extremely successful in helping to mentor, guide, and of course, police students and gang activity on local campuses.

Cutting back on our gang unit and being forced with the tough decision of having to cancel our SRO program were not easy decisions. However, due to the fact that we have the same number of Police Officers that we had in 1990, but with 2 ½ times the number of 9-1-1 calls, and in order to maintain any semblance of reasonable response times, we had to reassign our SRO’s, and members of our SET Unit to our Patrol Division in order to handle the increasing 9-1-1 demand.

Not only as Chief, but also as a citizen of this City, it is my sincere hope that we can once again increase staffing within our SET Unit and reinstate the SRO program. Statistics show that active youth and anti-gang programs not only reduce crimes but help to reduce other incidents like graffiti too.

Together we can make a difference.

Sincerely,

Pat Miller

Public Safety Dispatcher Recruitment

04/11/2006 Question: I noticed the Ventura Police Department advertising that your Department is hiring Public Safety Dispatchers. I am interested in this position and am wondering if you can tell me a bit more about the hiring process and the position itself?

Answer: Our Department is actively recruiting for Public Safety Dispatchers, for both lateral and Trainee (new hire) positions. In fact, you can attend an orientation meeting scheduled for May 23, at 6:00 pm at the Ventura Police Department located at 1425 Dowell Dr. The meeting will take place in our Training Room and will give you the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the position.

Our hiring process for a Public Safety Dispatcher (both lateral and Trainee) is continuous, in other words we accept applications year round and conduct interviews as the application process warrants. In particular, for the position of Public Safety Dispatcher Trainee, the City’s Human Resources Department will process applications every 30 days and then select from the list of applicants on the list.

Although the minimum qualifications required are a combination of education, training and experience equivalent to completion of high school, one year of experience involving public contact, computer usage, or telephone experience, what we really looking for are character attributes. The Ventura Police Department prides itself on unparalleled service through community partnership and the women and men of our Department are a testament to leadership by example. We expect all members of our Department to be honest, trustworthy, team-oriented, responsible, motivated, fair, professional, pro-active in their decision making, and involved with the community on many different levels.

The process begins like most other job postings but quickly becomes more involved as we seek the best possible candidates. First, we require a completed application and supplemental questionnaire. Those candidates who meet the minimum requirements will be invited to take part in a written test which includes multiple choice questions, listening exercises, and reading comprehension. The test allows us to further evaluate the ability of a potential candidate.

Applicants who successfully pass the written test will complete a Personal History Statement. After the Personal History Statement is reviewed, candidates will be selected for the oral interview process. Candidates selected from the oral interview will then go through a background investigation, psychological and medical examination. Candidates that successfully pass the background process may then be offered a position as a Public Safety Dispatcher or Trainee.

After being hired as a Public Safety Dispatcher Trainee, there is a training period which typically lasts 7 months. Upon successful completion of training, and the one-year probationary period, a candidate is promoted to Public Safety Dispatcher.

A Dispatcher is the first point of contact for the public, receiving, screening and responding to incoming emergency and non-emergency calls for police assistance. After receiving an emergency call, the dispatcher sends appropriate units and maintains necessary communication during the call. The position also demands a variety of clerical, record keeping, and general support duties related to communication activities. The position itself is really an exciting one. Everyday is truly different. A dispatcher truly contributes to the safety and well being of Officers and to the community as a whole.

If you want to be part of an essential team, have a challenging work environment, and most of all, want to make a difference; then I encourage anyone interested in a career as a Public Safety Dispatcher to attend the orientation meeting on May 6, or visit our website at www.venturapd.org. From there you can fill out an application and learn more about the position. Applicants are also encouraged to schedule a “sit-along” where you sit with a Dispatcher and experience the job first hand. Should you have additional questions or wish to speak with someone then please call or e-mail Acting Lieutenant Brock Avery within our Recruiting Department at 805.339.4495 or by e-mail at bavery@ci.ventura.ca.us.

I am very proud of our dispatch team. Being a Public Safety Dispatcher is truly a rewarding and exciting career.

Sincerely,

Pat Miller

ABC Officer

02/11/2006 Question: A while back I saw the Ventura City Council approved an alcohol permit ordinance along with an Officer who will oversee the ordinance. Can you tell me about the fee and what the Officer does?

Answer: Yes, you are correct regarding the City Council having approved an alcohol sales permit ordinance. The ordinance was approved in October of 2005 and was established to provide for the regulation of alcohol licenses and establishments. The ordinance was initiated by the City Council to govern the Conditional Use Permit process, whereby regulations can be imposed and enforcement can take place if there are violations of the conditions. The ordinance funds an Officer who manages, monitors, and enforces alcohol related incidents throughout the City.

Officer Patrick Lindsay oversees all Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) licenses and alcohol sales permits within the City of Ventura. Before describing some of Officer Lindsay’s duties I want to provide a little background information on establishments in the City who require an ABC license and the alcohol sales permit ordinance.

Prior to this year, all establishments in the City of Ventura needed only to obtain an annual ABC license (payable to ABC) to sell alcohol. With the implementation of the ordinance, businesses that sell liquor must now pay an annual alcohol sales permit fee to the City of Ventura. Those fees, as previously mentioned, pay for Officer Lindsay’s position and allow him to be a liaison with local businesses, our Department, the City, ABC, and others on issues as they pertain to ABC licensing. The alcohol permit fee, which can range from $250 to $1400 is determined by a tiered category of low to high for each of the following three components: potential risk, hours of operation, and annual wholesale purchases of alcohol. A business is then assigned a value of high, medium (excluding risk), or low for each category. In the event a business has a form of entertainment (Dance Hall, DJ, etc.) an additional entertainment permit in the amount of $300 is required.

Officer Lindsay works with businesses and assists them with ABC rules and regulations, licensing, liquor sales, employee sales of alcohol, making sure they understand and are in compliance with their alcohol permit, enforces non-compliant businesses, educates local businesses regarding such issues as underage drinking and sales to minors, and oversees entertainment permits. Additionally, Officer Lindsay assists ABC with compliance, education, and enforcement efforts. Our Department has also conducted a series of Minor Decoy operations throughout the City and Officer Lindsay will ultimately oversee this program. In the program, Police Officers directly supervise an approved minor decoy operative as they attempt to purchase alcoholic beverages from retail licensees in the City of Ventura. The program is intended to alert the public and liquor licensees of the increased scrutiny by law enforcement and to educate young people and liquor licensees about the penalties of trying to purchase, possess, or consume alcoholic beverages. The Minor Decoy Program is funded through a grant from ABC.

Overall, our Department sees this as an opportunity to provide an Officer who is accessible, the primary point of contact for local businesses, and a facilitator for an open and interactive dialogue between the City, Police Department, and ABC licensed businesses.

Sincerely,

Pat Miller

Volunteers In Policing

11/12/2005 Question: A few months ago one of the “Ask the Chief” articles talked about your newly enhanced Volunteers In Policing Program. I often see these volunteers driving and/or walking around downtown. I wanted to know if you could provide any updated information on the program, such as what these volunteers have been doing and their accomplishments thus far?

Answer: In 1989 the Ventura Police Department established a volunteer program. Since then, hundreds of volunteers have donated thousands of hours to the Department and our community. In fact, last year, eighty-four volunteers contributed over 12,500 hours, directly impacting nearly everything the Department does. Volunteers are an essential component in our Community Problem Oriented Policing efforts and through their efforts we are able to staff our four Storefronts, provide crucial assistance to our training division, investigations, property room, gang unit, crime scene investigations, and other administrative and clerical responsibilities.

After becoming Chief in December of 2004, one of my first objectives was to expand our existing volunteer program to include a VIP Program. The goal of the program is to increase community member participation and allow volunteers to actually assist our officers in the field by responding to non-emergency calls for service, thus increasing free patrol and emergency response times.

I am very proud to report that the first group of ten VIP patrol volunteers graduated May 17th, while our second class of ten graduated on October 25th. VIP participants perform a myriad of duties including downtown and promenade foot patrols, critical infrastructure checks, school and vacation checks, crime scene integrity, minor traffic accident investigation, traffic control, report writing, front desk support, and parking enforcement.

Our VIP program is clearly making a difference in our community. The following is but a sample of the contributions our ten VIP’s have made:

· Calls for Service, 143
· Reports Written, 102
· Parking Citations Issued, 111
· Extra/Foot Patrol, 125
· Officer Assists, 15
· Traffic Control, 9
· Special Details, 7
· Vacation Checks, 7
· School Checks, 56
· Infrastructure Checks, 16
· False Alarm Contacts, 128
· Patrol Miles Driven, 2,957
· *Total Volunteer Hours, 2,294
*Includes all VIP training since March 2005

We anticipate starting a new VIP class in January. If you are interested in signing up for the program, or have any questions, please contact Police Services Officer Laura Perry at (805) 339-4320, or visit the Department’s Website at www.venturapd.org.

Together we can make Ventura a better place.

Pat Miller

Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act

09/10/2005 Question: Recently it seems the subject of sexual predators and the crimes they commit have been in the news more often. I recently heard about a proposed law by Governor Schwarzenegger which provides greater protections against sexual predators. Are you aware of the proposed legislation and if so, can you tell me more about it?

Answer: Yes, I am aware of the proposed legislation which you mention. It is called the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act, also known as Jessica’s Law. Jessica Lunsford was a nine-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped and killed earlier this year by a convicted sex offender. I am also in complete support of the legislation as I feel there is probably no greater crime committed than one against children.

I recently had the opportunity, along with other local public safety officials, community leaders, and crime victim advocates, to be briefed on the Governor’s proposed Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act. I feel the law would provide California with some of the most stringent sex offender laws in the nation and allow for greater protection for our children and communities.

The Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act would:

--Require registered felony sex offenders to wear a global positioning device for the rest of their lives.
--Establish a sentence enhancement of five years for rapists who use a date rape drug.
--Increase penalties for the possession of child pornography to a felony and automatically make possession of child pornography a felony for second or more offenses.
--Eliminate "good time" prison credits for habitual sex offenders.
--Establish a Predator Free Zone 2,000 feet from schools or parks.
--Expand parole terms up to 10 years for predators who commit the most heinous crimes.
--Ensure that sexually violent predators stay in a secure hospital until they no longer pose a danger to society.
--Expand the One Strike sex crimes list to ensure rapists and molesters are harshly punished.
--Make it illegal to lure children online with the intention of meeting them face-to-face to molest, rape, or engage in sexual activity.
--Expand the Sexually Violent Predator Program by allowing for the classification as a Sexually Violent Predator after one offense, requiring Sexually Violent Predators to prove distinct change in mental conditions before being considered for release, and providing for indefinite periods of commitment to state hospitals.

To learn more about the proposed Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act I encourage you to visit the following website, www.governor.ca.gov, or call the Governor’s Office at 916-445-2841.

We must do all we can, particularly for our children, to keep our neighborhoods safe. I believe the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act makes it very clear to all predators that they will be caught and punished for the heinous crimes they commit.

Sincerely,

Pat Miller

Sex Offenders

March 15, 2005 Question: How does the police department keep track of registered sex offenders?

Answer: California Penal Code section 290 requires persons convicted of various sex-related offenses to register with the local police agency in their jurisdiction. In addition to the requirements of registration, those convicted of sex offenses are released with conditions of probation or parole that subject them and their residence to search by a peace officer without need for a court issued warrant. Specific terms may be attached to probation or parole that restrict where they reside and prohibits contact with past victims or with children. Violations of the terms of probation or parole can result in the sex offender being arrested and returned to custody.

Last month, more than 30 police officers, detectives, and agents from the Ventura Police Department, Hawthorne Police Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, California Department of Justice Sexual Predator Apprehension Team (SPAT), Ventura County Probation Department and Ventura County State Parole checked the homes of more than 180 sex registrants living in the City of Ventura. This compliance operation was the first of its kind in the City.

Six teams of officers contacted sex offenders known to live in Ventura on the morning of Tuesday, February 8. The primary goal of the operation was to contact sex offenders who were on probation or parole and conduct searches for contraband or violations of the offender’s specific terms. The secondary goal was to contact all other registrants to confirm that the address listed at the time of registration was the same as the current residence. The District Attorney’s Office does prosecute sex offenders who are out of compliance with their registration terms by not updating current residence information, not living where stated, giving other false information on registration forms, or failing to notify police when moving from the jurisdiction. Officers also used this opportunity to enforce compliance with newly passed legislation (Prop. 69) that requires all sex offenders to submit DNA samples to the Public Health Office.

The Sex Registrant Compliance operation resulted in the identification of 16 individuals who were out of compliance with their registration requirements. Follow-up investigations involving these individuals may result in felony or misdemeanor prosecutions. The operations are part of the pro-active enforcement profile that the Ventura Police Department is initiating to better protect the citizens of Ventura by insuring that all sex registrants who live within the city are in compliance of the law. For more information about 290 PC registrants and Megan’s Law check the web site www.meganslaw.ca.gov.

If you would like more information about the department, or have questions that you would like to see addressed in future columns, please visit our website at www.venturapd.org. By working together on issues, we can solve any problem and accomplish enormous tasks. Together we can make this an even greater community.

Seizing Guns During Domestic Violence Incidents

February 2005 Question: Are there any laws that allow police officers to take guns from a home after a domestic violence incident?

Answer: Domestic violence calls are among the most unpredictable and dangerous incidents to which police officers respond. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice, 1247 women and 440 men were killed by an intimate partner in 2000 alone. The agency also found that between 1993 and 2001, 70% of all homicide victims were killed with a firearm. Domestic violence incidents often escalate in violence and can end in homicide, especially when there are guns in the home.

California law allows officers who respond to a domestic violence call to confiscate firearms and other deadly weapons. These items are booked into the department’s property room and may be released back to the owner only after certain conditions are met. These conditions include a determination by the court that the weapon would not endanger the victim and a background check on all involved parties. Specific timelines are required to ensure the safety of everyone involved, as well as ensuring the lawful return of the property.

The Ventura Police Department has always maintained strict guidelines for the confiscation and return of weapons. Detective Bernadette Compean took the lead role in developing and implementing our protocol and record-keeping system. Our procedures follow state statutes while also taking into consideration the safety and rights of both the involved parties and the general public.

In 2002, the State mandated the development of a statewide model protocol for the seizure and subsequent return of weapons taken during domestic violence calls. The Ventura Police Department was recognized as a model agency and Detective Compean was selected to participate in the protocol’s development.

In domestic violence incidents, there is often a conflict between a victim’s right to be safe and a gun owner’s right to possess a weapon. Our goal in seizing weapons from a home is to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

If you would like more information on this topic, please contact Detective Bernadette Compean at 339-4478. If you have a question you would like answered in this column, please contact me at PoliceChief@ci.ventura.ca.us . I look forward to hearing from you.