It starts with the kids.
That’s been the mantra voiced over and over by the Garden Grove PD and other city agencies during their months-long effort to revitalize a neighborhood challenged by gangs and blight.
Through a variety of initiatives, police have partnered with residents on Palma Vista Avenue, an apartment-lined cul de sac just south of Katella Avenue, to empower youngsters through education, exercise and service.
The newest initiative, launched March 18, is the Palma Vista Junior Neighborhood Watch Program.
With a Ford Police Interceptor on display in the middle of the street, 30 youngsters listened as Officers Taylor Macy and Raphael Lee displayed every piece of equipment in the vehicle and explained why they have it and what it does.
The officers showed off every item on their utility belt, called a “Batman Belt” by Macy: Pepper spray, Tasers, handcuffs, radios, batons, bullets.
The kids learned what to do if they see someone with a gun or a stranger lurking in the neighborhood.
The kids had plenty of questions, too:
Why do police have cameras? What are sirens for? Why do some officers have pets?
“The whole point is that we want to teach them at a young age to get involved,” said Cindy Nagamatsu-Hanlon, manager of the GGPD’s Community Liaison Division.
In future neighborhood watch gatherings, the youngsters will learn how, why and when to dial 911.
They will learn about gangs and safety.
“I like that we heard a lot more about what the officers do today,” 11-year old Asuzena Suarez said.
The mission to create a safer, more aesthetically pleasing neighborhood started in November and likely will go on for more than a year, Nagamatsu-Hanlon said.
She plans to institute a point system in which kids get points for participating in community-sponsored events throughout the year.
While specifics have not been worked out, points will be tallied and prizes will be given out, Nagamatsu-Hanlon said.
“It’s all designed to empower them,” Hanlon said. “And for them to get to know the neighborhood and their neighbors.”
Kacie Cardoza manages an apartment house on the street and has been a strong advocate of the Palma Vista beautification effort.
“More and more, word is getting around, which is good,” said Cardoza, who has hosted community gatherings at her apartment complex. “It’s great. It’s to educate the kids for what to look for and that it is OK to tell an adult. It all starts with the kids.”