The smell of fresh carne asada, tortillas, cilantro, and lime permeated the air at Northgate Market on South Euclid Street the afternoon of Thursday, April 11.
“I wanted some Carne Asada Tacos so I came,” Resident Cecilia Aguiliar said. “But I also have concerns and there’s always things that we can work on together. So I’m here to build that relationship with the officers because you just never know when something will come up and it’s good, too, to know them and know them by name.”
At the market, local residents and shoppers were joined by Anaheim Police Department personnel to enjoy some tasty tacos and quality conversation during the Carne Asada with a Cop event.
“A significant portion of our communities do their shopping here,” Anaheim Police Chief Jorge Cisneros said. “So in order to build a relationship with them, it is extremely important that we engage and reach out to discuss any issues that they may have and see what ways we can help.”
Anaheim is a larger city composed of multiple neighborhoods, each holding unique characteristics.
“Going into our communities is understanding that neighborhood, understanding an individual, and trying to find long-term solutions that will assist them in having a better, more prosperous life,” Cisneros said.
While community engagement is the main purpose of events like Carne Asada with a Cop, the event also functions as a casual open forum and gives residents a chance to get to know their police department on a more personal level.
“I think it’s wonderful because it kind of puts a face to the badge,” participant Jerry Balkin said. “You get to interact with officers one on one and get to know them on more of a personal level, so it’s good.”
As residents know, growing that connection between themselves and the officers will be beneficial.
“I like to see the faces that are working in the community and have that one-on-one relationship so if I’m having issues I know who to go to,” Anaheim resident Maritza Bermudez said.
This particular Carne Asada with a Cop was set up by ALTO Alliance with support from the Anaheim Police Department.
When crimes are committed inside the market, ALTO represents the North Gate and other retailers during prosecution.
“When we were talking to retailers and law enforcement prosecutors before, we found out that everybody was pointing fingers at each other, and nothing was changing,” ALTO Assurance Attorney Brian Lee said. “There was this huge gap in communication between the three parties (officers, markets, and judges).”
Although ALTO works on behalf of the market, they understand the importance of working closely together with both law enforcement agencies.
“We’re building that relationship right off the bat so that we know who to contact right away and retailers have a resource to use as well,” Lee said. “The more that we set these up, the more everybody’s willing to work with each other.”
On the other hand, for residents who do have concerns, talking though their issues with an officer over tacos is more casual and comfortable.
“I want a safer community because I’m an Anaheimer born and raised myself and now I am raising my family here,” Bermudez said. “We need to be the best that we can and have our kids thrive and stay out of trouble and the only way we are going to do that is if we are informed and know what our resources are and what the laws are.”
Officers agreed education is essential in keeping the Anaheim community safe.
“A key part of us being out here is about educating the community about crime prevention techniques and then also answering questions to problems that might be happening in their community and be able to help solve problems,” Anaheim Motor Officer Mike Reichmann said.
At the end of the day, residents wanted to come and show support. Bill Wyrick of Anaheim attended to support his local officers. His son and other family members are police officers in other cities.
“Young kids need to come out here and interact with the police and see that they are good guys and that they are here to help,” Resident Rosa Mulleady said. “I know that police officers get a bad rap and yeah, are there some bad ones? Absolutely. But there’s also some darn good ones too.”