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Darrah appreciates police with BBQ
Ceres worst neighborhood improves due to partnership
Darrah Street resident Jameo Walker prepares beef ribs for Ceres Police Officer Ron Collins as Charles Hernandez waits his turn for a plate. During Saturdays event, Sgt. Darren Venn chatted with apartment manager Tammy Arias. The barbecue was held to show police they are appreciated in helping to rid Darrah Street of its criminal element. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Avery Jackson says there is less crime on Darrah Street than when he moved in during August 2013 thanks to the bond between residents and police. A barbecue for officers held on Saturday seemed like an appropriate gesture, especially in light of tragic attacks on officers throughout the United States.

"This is great, this is fantastic," said Ceres Police Department Sgt. Darren Venn as his officers were enjoying food in the shade as Ray Charles' "Let the Good Times Roll" was playing in the background. "It's about coming together and being human beings."

For five hours on Saturday afternoon officers intermittently dropped by the apartment building at 1956 Darrah Street to feast on barbecued chicken, tri-tip and ribs. By 3 p.m. an estimated 15 officers had dropped by to eat. Also participating were residents as well as Access Property Management, owners of 1940 Darrah Street and Pearl Associates Property Management, owners of 1944 Darrah Street.

"We just want to show our police department that we appreciate them and we support them and in light of everything that's going on, we need something positive," said Jackson.

"I've seen a lot of stuff, mostly gang banging and people trying to break into cars," said Jackson, who is a Ceres Cowboys coach. "The first issue I had somebody stole my license plate. I saw a drive-by shooting happen while the kids were all outside playing - that's when I decided I have to do something. I had to make a change. I had to start by letting the police know what was going on."

Jackson said he helped police make an arrest in a string of burglaries by pointing out suspects. The atmosphere on the street is "a lot better," he said.

Jameo Walker, the Darrah Street man who barbecued for the officers, also did his part to help clean up the neighborhood, long known as being one of the worst in Ceres. He said when he moved in a year ago he had no idea Darrah had a bad reputation.

"This is a blessing to me that they all came out," said Walker. "They're a blessing to me anyways because since I've been here the last year, they've had my back. They've come every time I've called, they answer my questions for me. They're always here for me so I'm honored to have them as a police force. That's why I'm barbecuing for them."

Walker purchased the apartment building at 1940 to flush out residents.

"When we were evicting them they actually attacked us and jumped us," added Jackson. "The people at 1940 were living there rent free for two years. You can just imagine who was living there."

The event also allowed police to mingle with youth on the block.

Sgt. Venn said the cleanup of Darrah has included the city's code enforcement unit which has worked with owners in cleaning up blight and better tenant screening.

Jackson said he was disturbed by the murder of four Dallas officers and shooting of seven others.

"They were probably good officers and you just show at them for no reasons. That's just wrong. I don't get that."

The Dallas shootings occurred days after the publicity of Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez shooting and killing Philando Castile during a traffic stop as his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds streamed the aftermath live on Facebook. The video, which did not show what transpired before the fatal shots, touched off anger in some black communities where there is a sentiment that white cops are heavy handed in their dealings.