Chief really ‘likes’ West Garden Grove Facebook page


The driver of the truck slammed into a parked car near the city library mid-morning, and then drove away.

Later that day, Garden Grove police pulled the car over with help from witnesses who had shared information about a distinctive decal on the truck.

In another recent high-profile crime in west Garden Grove, three residents played a key role in helping law enforcement capture and arrest suspects in a residential burglary caught on video from an Orange County Sheriff’s helicopter.

Witnesses to both recent crimes are members of a Facebook page whose administrators last week received a Chief’s Coin for Merit in recognition of their efforts to enhance the quality of life in their community. The three witnesses to the residential burglary separately received a Chief’s Coin for Merit from officers on the scene.

David Johnson, Katarina Weinberg, Cynthia Graves and George Brietigam, administrators of the West Garden Grove Neighborhood Watch Facebook page, were awarded the coins by Chief Kevin Raney in a brief ceremony in his office Aug. 13.

The page has grown to nearly 2,600 members since the four took over leadership of the site in June 2013.

“It’s great what you’re doing, and this is a small token to recognize that,” Raney told them.

He then invited the four to an annual recognition dinner in which all recipients of a Chief ‘s Coin for Merit will be honored.

“Dinner’s on me,” Raney said with a smile.

Johnson, Weinberg, Graves and Brietigam restrict membership on their Facebook page to the estimated 16,000 residents who live in the 92845 zip code and immediate surrounding area (Katella Avenue to the north, the 22/405 freeways to the south, Western Avenue to the east and Heather Street to the west).

The idea is to keep the site a safe and trusted place for members to share safety and other tips – and keep out people who have no vested interest in the community.

The Garden Grove PD and other city agencies are members on the website, whose goals is to keep members informed about crimes happening in the area and to provide information regarding local news and political issues and youth/community events affecting the community.

Graves said the website has allowed members of the community to form closer ties to the police department and put into place community policing to combat criminal and suspicious activity.

“In the beginning, some citizens were leery of the police and the police were leery of this site, because some members didn’t understand the functions and limitations of police and were vocally outspoken,” Graves said. “This site has become a vessel for better communication between the two.”

Johnson, a deputy sheriff with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, agreed.

“We look at this as an effective tool to help the Garden Grove police do their job,” he added.

Brietigam is a sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department; Graves and Weinberg are civilians, but both went through the Garden Grove PD Citizens Academy last fall.

All four devote a few hours each day managing the Facebook site, described by Johnson as “kind of a Neighborhood Watch on steroids.”

Cindy Nagamatsu Hanlon, manager of the Community Liaison Division of the Garden Grove PD, praised the Facebook page administrators.

“Your (website) is truly on the cutting edge and I have witnessed the growth, camaraderie, productive communication and mutual support that has evolved on this page since I joined in early February of this year,” Nagamatsu Hanlon posted on the site.

“So may I extend kudos to all of you for the care and commitment you bring to your individual neighborhoods and to the community at large.”