Even with all the road work now being completed throughout Newport Beach, the city’s police department is encouraging frequent use of a new “two-way street” called Communication.
On Saturday, July 16, at the Rose Bakery Cafe on Coast Highway in Corona del Mar, the Newport Beach Police Department held its first ever “Mobile Cafe,” where “residents, business owners, and visitors to the city came together in an informal space to discuss community issues and to build relationships,” said event organizer Sgt. Steve Oberon.
It was an opportunity to casually get to know the oﬃcers who work the beat rather than just through the open window of a stopped vehicle, or when filing a police report.
“More than 100 people joined us,” said Oberon, whose other duties include gang investigation, the chaplain program and peer support. The morning was sweetened by a cop’s stereotypical snack: free coﬀee and donuts.
Oberon suggested the Mobile Cafe concept more than a year ago, having conducted a similar program before he laterally transferred to Newport Beach, from the Pasadena Police Department seven years ago. There, Oberon said “we had a bunch of families who contacted us, because their kids were being recruited to join gangs. Together with the chief of our Outreach eﬀorts, we formed the program; there was an immediate and positive impact in the community.”
“My main goal at these Mobile Cafes is to get the public to know members of the police department,” added Oberon. “I will respond to everyone who signed up with a ‘Thank You,” or start the process to address any problems or concerns they may have.”
Sgt. Oberon can be reached at (949) 644-3688, Ext. 2745, or via email at [email protected].
The NBPD divide Newport Beach into areas. Everything east of MacArthur Blvd., such as CdM, Newport Coast, and Cameo Shores, comprises Area 4. That zone is under the purview of Lt. Brad Miller, who noted that currently “Our main focus is on residential burglaries, as well as educating the public about this trend, and what they can do to help harden the target.”
The city has been hit by trained gangs predominantly from South America, as well as from the Los Angeles area. Several arrests have been made on each group, with one South American claiming this was his first experience. However, a deep investigation revealed that he was a convicted double murderer from Chile.
“These gangs want to avoid detection,” Miller said, and it is easier for them in Area 4, “given that the properties are larger and there is lots of open space.”
Miller must address other issues, such as “beach trash after a busy weekend. Police work is also education,” he informed.
CdM resident Norm Ellis, 65, a former Marine, showed up at Mobile Cafe because “I read about it in the Independent, and I like the program. “I go walking in the neighborhood between 3 and 5:30 a.m., and I see a lot of things that most people don’t,” he revealed, adding, “I know when and when not to call the police.”
But he always consults with himself, first: “When you see three people sitting on a park bench, wearing dark clothes and in hoodies, I ask, ‘Should I call, or not?’” He also wears a bright green safety vest, and carries Mace, plus keeps a safe distance from suspicious individuals.
Longtime police volunteer Sandy Meadows attended to “share how wonderful it is to be a Police Volunteer,” and to encourage area residents to attend the PD’s Citizens’ Police Academy. “It’s a great way to learn what our police do, and how dedicated our oﬃcers truly are.”
On a personal note, Meadows shared how a Chilean crew attempted a burglary at her home, only to be dissuaded by security alarms. Six weeks ago, the same suspected gang succeeded in burglarizing her neighbor’s home. The burglars were “caught,” but only on the well-positioned security cameras.
A high-energy participant in most police-related community activities, Volunteer Joel Gerson enthused that “Mobile Cafe was a real trifecta in my opinion: it was a win for the community, for the PD and for me personally. It was one of the best outreach eﬀorts I’ve experienced in my 13-years with the department.”
Oﬃcer Bernadette Sanchez transferred from the Albuquerque, NM Police Department to Newport in November, and immediately noticed the diﬀerence in pace.
“Here, people really like the police, they are so welcoming. In Albuquerque it is busier, and there is more violent crime. The pace is slower here, quieter,” she said. “In Newport, the people wave with five fingers.”
During the interview with Sanchez, resident Sue Ducker, a Mobile Cafe attendee and two-year-resident on Poppy Ave., stopped to oﬀer suggestions on traﬃc control: “One way streets, stop signs on every corner, and speed bumps.”
She shared that not long ago, a speeder drove into and ripped oﬀ the open door of a vehicle whose driver was trying to exit. She also noted that when there are no four-way street signs, drivers can’t see beyond cars that are parked the corners.
“This was a great event,” city council member Joy Brenner enthused. “Our police department is so responsive; this is just one example of what our community wants to hear and see, and what our police are doing to stay in contact with the people.”
The CdM Mobile Cafe is the first of a series planned activities to be held in each area of the city every six weeks to two months for vis-a-vis communications between police, residents and businesses.
In terms of modern policing practice, this positive contacts with the various segments of the community should be the first step in caring police work.
Chief Jon Lewis, a wholehearted proponent of open and honest communications, said this about Project Mobile Cafe: ”This is just the first of what we expect will be many more successful events. Days like today are part of what makes Newport Beach and the Police Department so special.”