Following a stabbing in a La Habra neighborhood, Det. Noah Daniels, who is part of the department’s gang unit, was having trouble finding witnesses to step forward and assist in his investigation.
Then he had an idea.
“I’m expecting these people to come out and talk to me … but in reality it’s my responsibility to have them feel comfortable with me,” said Daniels, who’s been at the La Habra Police Department for 5 1/2 years and a detective for the past year and a half. “That’s on me.”
So, along with Det. Mucio Sanchez, the two went door-to-door, handing out English-Spanish fliers, while introducing themselves to community members. The fliers were an invitation for residents to attend an informal meeting later that day. Fifteen people attended that first meeting – and the number has grown to more than 50 over the year since the meetings began.
“These people live here – they are the eyes and ears of their area,” said Daniels, who was honored May 4 by OC Human Relations at its AWARDS 46 Celebration. Held at City National Grove of Anaheim, the function provided an opportunity to formally recognize and award those individuals, groups and businesses making a difference in the county.
Daniels received the Community Policing Award for those initial outreach efforts that also led to regular meetings of community members, police and other city departments – code enforcement and parks and recreation, for example.
He said quickly he began to see there were more than just police matters of concern to the residents, which is why he invited other members of the city.
A block party was held, in conjunction with parks and recreation, to further bolster the outreach. Police and city members helped beautify the neighborhood via activities like tree planting during the event. It’s something residents had requested during the community meetings.
Though “still a work in progress,” he said, the community outreach is paying off.
“So far I think the response has been really positive,” said Daniels. “I believe that crime has dropped in that area. I believe that resident response to us has become much more positive. People have been more keen to come in and report crimes.”
He’s having residents walk up and talk to him, telling him about their day, and their community.
“That’s awesome,” he said of the increased involvement.
Now that community involvement is up and meetings are going strong, Daniels indicated that the police department is taking this pilot model and utilizing it in other neighborhoods in the city. The agency wants to be a positive force for change in the community, in addition to crime management, he said.
And while he realizes he got the ball rolling for this outreach program, he calls himself “a very small cog in this.”
“The main credit goes to all the people [involved]that did this,” he said. “They really are the true heroes in this.”