The Orange Police Department is stopping crime before it happens by encouraging building designs that inhibit illegal activity.
The department was among the first in the state to use this unique strategy to fight crime, and has been honing its technique ever since.
The department’s main construction contact, Crime Prevention Specialist Brad Beyer, helps businesses build structures that discourage crime.
The first study was published examining building security in the 1970s, and though Santa Ana was the first to implement a municipal building security code in 1978, Orange was a close second in January 1979. The city ordinance will see its 40th anniversary next year, and Beyer has been at this since 1995.
“Not every city has this; in fact, most cities do not,” Beyer said. “It gives me satisfaction that I’m not only helping the citizens, I’m helping my family and myself to be safe in this community.”
Beyer was an early advocate of this approach, and helped the city update its code this spring to promote things like an 8-inch minimum size for addresses, updated lighting requirements, and to bring the ordinance up-to-date with the Americans with Disabilities Act and city building codes. The department can also provide a list of suggested deadbolt locks.
“I’m very proud of it,” Beyer said. “It was a long road, but I think we’ve ended up with a better document than what I ever imagined it to be.”
The updated city code is just one of the tools the city can use to prevent crime.
“We’re going to hopefully make it less likely that the criminals are going to do the crime, which is going to be a different strategy than just throwing police officers out to an area,” Beyer said.
All these changes make structures less ideal for criminal activity, and serve to make it easier for first responders to find an address in an emergency, when every second counts.
“We’re in crime prevention. We can’t arrest people,” Beyer said. “What we can do and what we can contribute is educate people about the right habits and we can try to establish great environments in the city that prevent crime.”
The Rapids Express Car Wash on North Tustin Avenue was one successful project for the Orange Police Department. During the site planning process, Beyer gave suggestions on where to locate the bathrooms, what type of shrubbery to use to discourage people from sleeping in the bushes, and other tips that would minimize crime, said owner Geoff Von Der Ahe.
“I do think it made a difference,” Von Der Ahe said. “Getting their input up front helped us in the long run to minimize issues with crime, safety, and issues like the homeless problem.”
Von Der Ahe said Beyer even came to the site in the early morning to ensure the structure had enough lighting to discourage criminal activity.
Beyer also recommends businesses use laminated burglary film or graffiti film on glass to prevent a would-be burglar from breaking through a window quickly or from etching graffiti onto the surface.
“If a burglar is trying to break that window, he may eventually break through that film, but it’s going to take him quite a long time to do,” Beyer said. “And one thing burglars want is speed. They want to be in and out fast.”
For example, parking structures can be high-crime locations, but adding top-notch lighting, limited access points, painting the inside white for better visibility, and having few hiding spots can reduce the amount of crime that happens there.
“We’re trying to get in the criminal’s head to look at a situation and say, ‘That doesn’t look like a place I want to do my crime in,’” Beyer said.
Along with the update, the city is releasing security guideline suggestions for builders to use as they finalize their plans. Developers, Beyer says, are supportive.
“It’s been a pleasure working with the Orange Police Department,” Von Der Ahe said. “From a business owner standpoint, its very helpful when we feel we’re working closely together with the police department. I feel like the police department is right there if we need anything. It’s nice that Orange is that way.”