Westminster residents filled the Eastwood Elementary School auditorium for a Neighborhood Watch meeting covering several topics of local interest, including Fourth of July fireworks and community cleanup.
Westminster police commanders and officers hosted the June 4 meeting in order to keep residents up-to-date on police and city initiatives, including the city’s new Community Preservation Unit, which launched in March.
“If it’s visually offensive to you, we take care of that,” said Community Preservation Unit Supervisor Jaime Rosas, who gave a presentation about the new program.
Rosas explained that the unit handles include things like garbage in public view, discarded mattresses and furniture in alleyways, and items left from homeless encampments.
Prior to the formation of the group, there could be logistical delays to picking up such materials due to various city departments having jurisdiction over specific types of cleanup. In addition, in situations involving law enforcement – such as with homeless encampments – items could be too large for a police cruiser to pick up. The six Community Preservation Unit workers are equipped with blue trucks at the ready to remove unsightly garbage and other refuse littering the community.
“We’re driving around looking for this kind of stuff,” Rosas said. “You call us, we take care of it.”
Westminster Police Commander Darin Upstill encouraged residents to be proactive about things they see in the city.
“Now you have a connection,” Upstill said. “If you don’t call, we don’t know.”
Commander Cord Vandergrift and Detective Ryan Reyes covered another important topic for communities: crime. Vandergrift encouraged residents to sign up for a new social media platform developed by the Ring security company for use by law enforcement agencies and residents. The platform allows the agency to communicate directly with members of the Westminster community, as well as gives officers and detectives the ability to request video submissions from Ring device owners in areas where a crime has occurred.
“Those videos, now residents can share with our detectives,” Vandergrift said.
Reyes discussed three other ways residents can help make the community safer: adding lighting and surveillance cameras to homes, locking cars and rolling up windows, and getting to know neighbors.
“We ask that you exchange numbers,” Reyes said. “Constantly keep each other in the loop.”
A hot topic for residents in the city is illegal fireworks use. Westminster allows “safe and sane” fireworks on the Fourth of July. In an effort to address the issue, the agency took a much more proactive approach last year, Upstill said, including public service announcements, officers patrolling on bikes, and even undercover work. Last year the agency recovered 294 pounds of illegal fireworks and made 12 arrests. The agency is taking the same proactive approach this year, he said.
“We are doing as much as possible with the resources we have to make it safe and sane for everyone,” he said.
Acting Police Chief Mark Lauderback said addressing fireworks is challenging because Westminster is a big city that requires enforcement while some fireworks are allowed.
“Nobody gets time off in the first part of July,” Lauderback said. “We already have our details set up.”
The meeting ended with a demonstration by Westminster Police Officer Travis Hartman and his popular police K9, Pako, followed by a question-and-answer session about the Dutch shepherd.
“You can see his focus,” Hartman said to the audience as Pako demonstrated his suspect apprehension skills on a K9 agitator in a bite suit. “That’s what you call a trusty partnership.”