Thanks to Our Ukiah Police Chief, Chris Dewey

As you may recall, last year we sponsored a contest asking for recommendations to make Ukiah a safer place to live and work. The vast majority of people who submitted entries—including contest winner Jane Covella—suggested activities for the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) to undertake. Police Chief Chris Dewey listened intensely to all suggestions, and appropriately gave the most weight to Jane’s suggestions.

Many of the suggestions centered around citizens being proactive in communicating with the police department and with UPD being more proactive with citizens. When I spoke with Chief Dewey about this, he let me know that UPD already does most of the activities that were recommended; however, he acknowledged that if the public were unaware, then there’s room for improvement.

With that in mind, Chief Dewey has embarked on a new program for Ukiah, intended to make citizens, particularly business owners, more aware of the function and resources the UPD has available and to create a network of well-informed, well-connected citizens.

Starting soon, UPD will launch Business Watch. This program will focus on sharing current police activities and timely safety issues regarding the Ukiah community, whether it’s increased gang activity, bad checks, graffiti, or perhaps transient problems in a particular neighborhood. It will also provide some resources to help citizens share their observations with UPD.

UPD will use technology blended with good, old-fashioned pounding the beat with feet to put this program in motion. Chief Dewey plans to make extensive use of community service officers (cops without guns) to communicate directly with the public on current issues, including crime trends, safety tips, and even taking police reports when necessary. Community service officers and volunteers will also assist local business owners who participate in the program as they access UPD’s online resources like the website and facebook pages, as well as in-person community forums.

To quote from Jane Covella’s contest entry:

Our local police force faces a severe problem with too few officers engaged against the criminal elements who explore our community to see how they can effectively invade homes and cars, avoid drug and alcohol laws, exploit children’s rights and safety, and trample civilian rights to safe homes, and a peaceful community.

Sadly, she’s right. We don’t have as many police officers as we need. Even though the Ukiah City Council has approved recruiting more, we haven’t been able to effectively compete with other police departments and law enforcement organizations, exacerbating burn out among the officers we have. It’s a vicious cycle—part of why we are having trouble recruiting is that officers don’t want to work for an understaffed department, and the only way to change the lack of staffing is through recruitment. Increasing police salaries would help, no doubt.

To help UPD recruit more officers, the Mendocino Public Safety Foundation is providing loans to pay for the cost of the police academy. After completing the academy, if an officer spends three years serving in law enforcement in Mendocino County, the debt is forgiven. Since the Ukiah Daily Journal wrote an article about this, the Foundation, of which I am a board member, has received generous offers from individuals willing to personally pay the cost of a cadet’s police academy training. Learn more at www.protectmendocino.org.

Chief Dewey has put a lot of creative programs into action to reduce the workload of sworn officers and he welcomed this Safe Ukiah contest to come up with even more ideas. It’s fantastic that Ukiah has a police chief willing to listen to the public and to take proactive steps when the opportunity presents itself. And I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Chris Dewey for his diligence, not just in this program, but in managing the UPD in general.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.