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Anti-crime event draws crowd
•Annual National Night Out event held in Whitmore Park
Jason Coley
Michael Welsh, 4, was all smiles sitting in a Ceres Police motorcycle seat after lifted into place by Ceres Police Sgt. Jason Coley at last week’s National Night Out event. The Aug. 6 event at Whitmore Park in downtown Ceres drew a big crowd. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Four-year-old Michael Welsh was beaming as Ceres Police Sgt. Jason Coley set him onto the seat of a police motorcycle at the National Night Out event held in Whitmore Park Tuesday evening. Pretending to be like his father – Officer Nick Welsh – thrilled Michael in what be a sign of things to come.

“Of course he wants to be just like his father,” said Marissa Welsh, wife of the officer and mother of little Michael.

The mother and son mingled in a strong turnout of Ceres residents at the annual event, designed to create a stronger relationship with local police and locals. The event, held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 6, featured chats with uniformed police, information booths, free hot dogs, nachos and drinks, displays of police vehicles, drinks, face painting, a bounce house, carnival games and a canine attack demonstration.

Rick Collins and dad
Ceres Police Chief Rick Collins (center) visits with an unidentified man and his father, John, at left. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Councilmember Linda Ryno helped hand out hotdogs barbecued by husband Sam Ryno, a former Ceres Police sergeant. The hotdogs were supplied by Cost Less Foods and nachos by La Cascada Mexican Restaurant owner Jose Saldivar. Supermom’s Frozen Yogurt was also on hand dispensing product.

Sergeants, a handful of off-duty officers and at least 12 uniformed officers, showed up for the event. Ceres Police Chief Rick Collins, socialized at the event which was also attended by his father, John Collins, who is also an Ontel Security officer.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of my son,” said the elder Collins, who was encouraged to become an Ontel employee by his son about 10 years ago.

Collins became police chief in April, taking over for Brent Smith, who retired to Idaho.

Jose Saldivar hands out nachos donated by his restaurant, La Cascada. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Sgt. Pat Crane reflected on the current crime trend in Ceres, noting how drunken driver and domestic violence cases have increased slightly with summer heat. He noted how, at the department’s request, local bars “are doing good” by stemming problems with drunken patrons before fights start. Sgt. Crane also noted that Ceres – like any other city – continues to reap the problem of petty thefts exacerbated by prison realignment instituted by then Gov. Jerry Brown and passage of Proposition 47 which downgraded a variety of “non-serious, nonviolent crimes” that had previously been considered felonies to misdemeanors. Those crimes include shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery, fraud, and writing bad checks. As long as the value of the stolen property is under $950, only a ghost of an offense now occurs in California.

“We’re dealing with the same people on a routine basis,” said Sgt. Crane.

Under Brown’s prison realignment program – it came about because the state decided to offload its responsibility of housing some offenders onto counties and their jails – more drug addicts and thieves are roaming the streets.

As frustrating to officers as catch and release practices have become, the department was buoyed by the arrest made at an Aug. 4 fight at Burger King. Officers stopped a male in the fight, Lamont Clark, 18, of Ceres, who turned out wanted by Stockton Police for murder.

“He didn’t put up a fight so I don’t think he knew he was wanted,” said Sgt. Crane.

Ceres Police Chief Rick Collins said his officers routinely arrest a person for drug possession and auto theft and they’re quickly back out on the streets for lack of enough jail beds. An example of that was Dustin Robinson, 20, of Keyes, who was arrested for drug possession on July 18, released from jail, and arrested for a residential burglary on Puma Way seven days later.

Face painted
Maribel Gonzalez approved of the artwork painted on her face by Angela Mendoza at the National Night Out event held on Aug. 6 at Whitmore Park. - photo by Jeff Benziger
Ceres crowd for bounce house
A crowd waits in line for kids to use the bounce house at National Night Out on Aug. 6. - photo by Jeff Benziger