It’s 3 a.m. on a recent Sunday and Garden Grove Police Officer Matt Marchand cruises the west end of the city, keeping an eye out for any situation that doesn’t look quite right.
Lights positioned on poles illuminate patches of ground on the streets and on private property, but there are still plenty of unlit spots where criminals look for opportunities to do their dirty work, perhaps trying to break into a locked vehicle or pry open a door or window of a business.
There had, in fact, been an uptick in vehicle and commercial burglaries on the west side. Marchand is part of a task force formed to combat the problem.
Marchand responds to a call at an industrial area where an unkempt-looking man, wearing baggy blue jeans and wrinkled short sleeve, button shirt, sits on the ground, handcuffed, and is surrounded by four other officers from the task force who already are at the scene.
After being questioned, the man is taken into custody for prowling, a violation of the penal code.
“If we wind up finding someone on private property or coming up to a vehicle or anything and they have no legitimate or lawful purpose to be there, the penal code allows us to arrest them for that crime,” Marchand said. “That is the tool we have been using to make sure that the criminals that are victimizing the residents of our city actually get arrested.”
Other tactics used by the GGPD have included placing officers in unmarked vehicles and employing bicycle patrols with officers in street clothes.
“The first night we implemented the bicycle program, we ended up grabbing a guy,” he said. “I think the second night we did it, we got another guy.”
Once the new strategies were in place, a couple of weeks passed before another vehicle theft was reported.
While the police are proactive in their approach to crime prevention, they depend on residents and business owners to do their part as well.
“Garden Grove works with a community oriented policing program,” Marchand said. “We listen and we try to figure out ways that we could essentially impact or prevent those crimes from occurring.”
Community members should never be hesitant about calling the police if they see suspicious behavior.
“We’ll come out and check it out. That is what we are here for. You may prevent your neighbor’s house from getting broken into or your neighbor’s car from getting stolen.”
Additionally, vehicle owners should take simple steps that prevent them from being an easy target in the first place.
Locking doors and windows should be a given.
So should keeping valuables hidden from plain view.
“Make your cars and houses a hard target,” Marchand said. “We want to encourage the residents of Garden Grove to stay vigilant.”