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Heat puts lid on National Night Out festivities
Police meet public at park
Ceres Police Officer Krandall Vandagriff lets 13-year-old Mickey Brewer try on SWAT protective gear and hold a battering ram at last weeks National Night Out event at Whitmore Park. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Triple-digit heat sizzled any plans that the Ceres Police Department had for good attendance at the National Night Out (NNO) festivities at Whitmore Park on Tuesday evening, Aug. 1.

Ceres Police Lt. Chris Perry explained that the purpose of the event was to create a stronger relationship with local police and Ceres residents. Positive personal contact between the public and police officers was the primary goal of the national event, which was celebrated from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event featured chats with uniformed police, information booths, free snacks, displays of police vehicles, fun things for kids, and a canine attack demonstration.

Mickey Brewer, 13, was more than eager to try on the Ceres Police Special Weapons and Tactics vest. He was all smiles as Officer Krandall Vandagriff fitted him with the heavy flak jacket and allowed him to hold the battering ram used to break down doors.

The public had a chance to interact with officers and check out the inside of the Ceres Police SWAT truck.

Information was supplied on the Code Enforcement Unit and Volunteers in Public Safety (VIPS) program and members of the SWAT team, patrol and detectives.

Ceres Police Lt. James Yandell said his department is managing the crime in Ceres despite legislation from Sacramento that is making officers' job harder.

"We're managing it like everybody else, trying to adjust to AB 109 still, Prop. 47, Prop 57," said Yandell. "Vehicle theft is through the roof. We're not seeing the volume of shoplifting."

One of the reasons Ceres Police are seeing less petty theft from retailers is in Walmart's reduced calls for service over shoplifters. That's because the national chain is using a "restorative justice" program that allows low-risk, first-time offenders are given the choice of paying to take a corrective anti-shoplifting class or face arrest and prosecution.

According to the National Retail Security Survey, theft from the public and employees caused U.S. retailers to lose $45.2 billion during 2015, or 1.38 percent of total sales.

"Walmart, who was one of our big contributers, ... is making very few calls to us on shoplifters. So we're not seeing the volume and the numbers."

Lt. Yandell said the public could help Ceres police fight crime just by securing their own property, such as locking their vehicle, not setting merchandise in the bed of pickups and locking up tool compartments on work trucks.

Lt. Chris Perry said it's not the newer cars with smart keys and push button ignition that are being stolen. "These are still your 1998 Honda Accords and Civics. The 2016 Lexus is not being stolen."

The event allowed the Ceres Police Department to accept a posthumous commendation for the late Ceres Police Chief G.W. "Pete" Peterson issued by state Senator Anthony Cannella and state Assemblyman Adam Gray. The commendation was issued in November 2015.

The next event in which the public can mingle with police officers will be at the Tuesday, Sept. 12 Coffee With a Cop event. It will take place at the McDonald's at Hatch and Herndon from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.