Police can’t do it all.
With an average of 12 officers patrolling Tustin on any given shift, it is impossible to see everything and be everywhere.
That’s why a decade ago, Tustin PD empowered residents to be the department’s eyes and ears in the community with its Neighborhood Watch Block Captain program.
The department on a recent Thursday hosted more than 250 residents at the Tustin Community Center for the bi-annual block captain meeting, giving residents a chance to hear safety updates and talk with the Tustin police employees who serve the city.
“I’m extremely proud of the men and women of the Tustin Police Department, but we cannot do it alone,” Police Chief Charles Celano told the group. “We need you and your assistance.
“You’ve heard me say this before: If you see something, say something.”
Celano shared a recent example of how an astute resident helped police discover a marijuana extraction operation in an apartment complex.
A resident on Feb. 28 called police to report several suspicious people at one of the units in the Rancho Alisal Apartment Homes on Parkcenter Lane.
When police investigated, they found a marijuana oil lab set up on the patio — a highly flammable, and very dangerous, endeavor.
Eighteen apartments were evacuated that night until police and fire could ensure the complex was safe.
Six men and a woman were arrested on suspicion of various charges, including manufacturing an illegal drug extraction lab.
“We were able to arrest seven people all because one person saw something and said something,” Celano said. “Please don’t hesitate to call us.”
Resident Shane Darlington said he makes a point to stay proactive in his neighborhood to let crooks know they’re not welcome.
“I do observe,” he said. “And if I do see something, I’ll take note of it and report it.”
Lt. Jeff Blair went over crime statistics and safety updates with the group, and outlined Tustin PD’s goals for this year, which include decreasing crime, ramping up outreach and reducing the number of traffic accidents.
Tustin in 2015 saw a 21 percent increase in crime, an uptick Blair said is attributed to property crime.
He added the numbers are inflated some because Tustin PD is proactively using GPS monitoring to catch thieves.
Although Blair couldn’t reveal what kinds of items the Tustin PD uses GPS for, he assured the tactic is working.
“We’re arresting people for stealing our own stuff, so the numbers go up. We’re just not advertising it,” Blair said. “Whatever hot-ticket item is out there, you can almost guarantee we have one out there with GPS on it.”
Added enforcement is expected to turn out more arrests in Tustin this year, but Blair said it is equally important to balance that effort with community outreach.
“We’re doing all this enforcement to combat crime and some of these people who are arrested have children,” Blair said. “We don’t want kids to think police are some scary, invading army.
“We really need to not lose the support of these young kids.”
Tustin Police run several outreach programs and have introduced more this year, including a run club at a local school, and they are considering starting a flag football program in the fall.
“Although we’re stepping up our enforcement efforts, we’re also stepping up our community outreach efforts,” Blair said. “Ninety-nine percent of people out there are good people, and we need them on our side. It’s the 1 percent that we’re after.”