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Police, public talk over coffee
Leonard Reisz2
Ceres Police Patrol Sergeant Chris Perry spoke to Ceres resident Leonard Reisz about things within the department during last Thursdays Coffee With A Cop event at Supermoms Frozen Yogurt in the Richland Shopping Center. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Greg Cabral and officers Jason Coley and Dirk Nieuwenhuis sat down with coffee cups in hand at Supermom's Frozen Yogurt Thursday morning as the resident unloaded his concerns about lawless drivers who fly through his neighborhood.

"We've lost one of our pets because of speeders," said Cabral, who complained about speeding cars with loud thumping stereos that zip past the residential areas around Berry Grove Park. "It's a quiet neighborhood until you get the kids with those ‘boompa boompa' radios."

Cabral's sharing prompted Coley, a motorcycle officer, to pledge to step up enforcement patrols. That will be a challenge considering that there are really only two traffic unit officers and a sergeant to patrol 133 miles of street in Ceres.

The table top conversation was one of many occurring at the Richland Shopping Center business for the fourth "Coffee with a Cop" hosted by the Ceres Police Department. The public engaged with city officials on hand as well, including City Manager Toby Wells, Mayor Chris Vierra and Tom Westbrook of the planning division.

Irma Reyna shared concerns with patrol Sergeant Chris Perry about the unsafe manner in which some parents drive around Don Pedro School where her daughter attends. She shared that some drivers drop their kids off in the street and make an illegal U-turn instead of continuing all the way east to Collins Road. They also blow off the instructions of teachers and student safety crossing guards.

A resident who preferred to be known only as Gene shared with Mayor Vierra his concern about officers' handling of calls about loud music and noise he has lodged about neighbors made on the west side. He told the mayor that if the department did less hand-slapping and issued citations with fines the problem would go away.

"I've lived here 25 years ... and in other cities that doesn't happen," he told the mayor. "They take care of business and then the community becomes a nice place to live."

Gene also shared that others in Ceres have shared with him that they have disrespectful neighbors who crank up the volume on stereos.

The coffee event also drew police supporters who just dropped by social time with officers. Leonard Reisz, whose three of six children went into law enforcement, dropped by to chat. His friend, Dale Edwards, dropped by to thank police for cracking down on a reoccurring drug problem on Lavon Lane with drug arrests.

Acting Police Chief Brent Smith said violent crimes have dropped in Ceres but property crimes are a growing concern. Like many Valley cities, Ceres is seeing a rise in burglaries and Smith blames the problem on the state's early release of lower level offenders dumping career criminals back on the street to steal as a way to support drug habits.

While a number of cities have had to let go of officers during the recession, Ceres was able to keep its force strong because of passage of Measure H tax revenue. That has allowed the department, said Smith, to "pretty much cover the streets."

"In some ways I can say I think the criminals know better," said Smith. "We have a 100 percent clearance rate (solved homicide cases since 2009) and I think we hit that pretty hard. There's still violence around the county as far as gang violence and drug activity however Ceres has been fortunate enough to keep most of its police officers thanks to Measure H. Others, such as the Sheriff's Office, haven't had the ability to do that. Our presence is obviously very important. I think areas where you have less police presence is where you have crime."