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Police engage over java
McDonalds hosts first-ever Ceres Coffee with a Cop
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Ceres resident Jimmy Kim (left) shares concerns about his neighborhood with Ceres Police detective Derek Perry (center) and Sgt. Danny Vierra (right). In his conversation the resident shared concerns about certain petty crimes that are disrupting peace and tranquility of west Ceres. The officers listened and offered ways problems can be solved. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Jimmy Kim dropped by the McDonald's at Whitmore and Morgan roads Wednesday morning after hearing about the first of what will be more in the "Coffee with a Cop" program.

Over coffee, he bent the ears of Detective Derek Perry and Sgt. Danny Vierra as he shared problems he is experiencing in his Woodview Drive neighborhood, among them cars racing down the streets and tagging on mailboxes.

The East Bay transplant was also able to vent about personal concerns over police, questioning why in years past when he was pulled without cause.

The first meet-and-greet event did not attract as many residents as Ceres police had hoped but acknowledge it was a good start in building stronger ties with the community. The program has been offered in over 175 other cities because it removes the physical barriers and crisis situations that routinely define interactions between law enforcement officials and community members. The intent is to allow the informal contact increase trust in police officers as individuals.

About 15 police employees made themselves available with Volunteers in Public Safety member Tim Murrillo along with School Resource Officer Randy Moore and Police Chief Art deWerk. Deputy City Manager Sheila Cumberland also stayed the whole hour from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Many wandered the restaurant to introduce themselves to breakfast-goers who didn't hear about the gathering.

Traffic officer Chris Perry struck up a conversation with Jesus Castellanos, who dropped by McDonald's before heading out to his restaurant, El Moreno, in Pleasanton. Perry and Sgt. Rick Collins were interested to hear that Castellanos' son opened a taqueria in the Taylor Shopping Center.

While police were hoping to receive some tip off about drug houses and other criminal activity, it was police who gave a valuable tip to one resident. DeWerk made his way over to a booth were Maria Luna was sitting with granddaughters Bianca and Sophia Madrigal.

"Everybody's doing a great job," Maria Luna told deWerk. "I love my community. I love Ceres."

At some point in the conversation, deWerk mentioned that Luna might want to know about health screenings offered by the NAACP/Ceres Police Stop Gap Health Services at 608 13th Street, Modesto. She was happy to learn that the clinic, started by Dr. Daniel Lucky, is open Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. The news was a godsend, she said because she lost her health insurance coverage when her husband died of cancer more than a year ago. She was contemplating seeking less expensive care in Mexico.

DeWerk shared that a full blood panel that would normally cost $900 is offered there for about $90.

Ceres resident Dave Johnson came by to renew acquaintances with some friends he's already made on the force. He had nothing but praise for his city's police department.

"I look at the officers we have and we're fortunate to have the top quality guys that we have," said Johnson. "They're a good group of guys."

Johnson said he is a resident of the wine name streets in north Ceres where neighbors take a proactive approach to watching for crime. "Crime is there though. It's everywhere."

Traffic Sergeant Chris Perry paused for a moment to explain the challenges his motorcycle unit faces in traffic enforcement.

"Traffic is pretty much bad everywhere," noted Sgt. Perry. He said while the chopper cops would prefer not to write tickets, about 20 per day are coming from his unit, many to drivers who are caught on their cell phones while behind the wheel.

Perry said distracted driving due to drivers on their smart phones and texting is becoming a big issue with safety - especially on Hatch and Mitchell roads.

"There is talk of (Sacramento) making it a point against your record," said Perry. "A person who looks down at their cell phone for four seconds at 30 miles an hour travels the length of two football fields. We're seeing a lot of rear-end collisions as a result."

Perry that it's easy to see many drivers reading their iPhones while sitting at traffic lights."

"We'll point for them to pull over and they know exactly why," said Perry.

Tickets for using a cell phone while driving come with a $170 fine.

The motorcycle division patrols 13 days per month, depending on weather, four hours per day.