Citrus Heights Sentinel Logo

Coffee with a Cop: officers talk drones, homelessness & traffic

Coffee with a Cop, Citrus Heights
Sgt. Jason Baldwin addresses a question during a “Coffee with a Cop” event held at Java Cherry on Oct. 4th.

Sentinel staff report–
The parking lot was full and inside was standing-room only at Java Cherry on Van Maren Lane Wednesday morning, as several dozen residents came out for the latest “Coffee with a Cop” event sponsored by the Citrus Heights Police Department.

The two-hour event allowed for residents to ask officers questions in an informal community setting, with topics and concerns raised including aerial drones, speeding on neighborhood streets, homelessness, junk piles outside homes, code violations, and increased crime.

Sgt. Jason Baldwin said police have been hosting the local coffee events several times a year, with a goal to “enhance community and communication” and give residents an opportunity to talk to police officers. He said Java Cherry was selected for the Oct. 4 event partially in response to a vandalism incident that occurred at the coffee shop last month and left the front window smashed in with a large rock.

Related: Citrus Heights coffee shop window smashed again; homeless suspected

Addressing concerns about homelessness raised at the meeting, Baldwin said the department has been working to respond to the issue and said a strategy of “enforcement plus resources” has helped, although more work is needed. He also said the department recently launched a Mental Health Crisis Intervention Program, designed to help respond to calls involving mental health issues, which many homeless individuals suffer from.

He also encouraged residents to get involved in their neighborhood associations as a problem-solving tool. A raise of hands during the meeting indicated only two attendees regularly participated in their local neighborhood association meetings each month.

Learn more about the city’s 11 neighborhood associations: Neighborhood groups REACH out to connect Citrus Heights residents

Baldwin attributed increases in some categories of crime to ballot propositions passed by California voters over the past few years, taking aim at Proposition 47 in particular. The proposition, titled the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act,” was passed by voters in 2014 and reduced penalties for certain crimes.

Attributing the proposition’s passage to what he considered a misleading title, Baldwin said: “who’s going to vote against safe schools?”

The sergeant also addressed several questions about drones, sharing plans the department has to put drones in the skies in the near future. The city council held a study session last month on the topic of police use of drones and the idea appears to have “full support of the council,” according to Councilman Bret Daniels, who attended the Coffee with a Cop event on Wednesday.

“I think it’s gonna come in the future where every officer has a drone in the back (trunk),” Baldwin told the group, citing a cost of about $7,000 per drone. He said drones would be a cost-effective surveillance tool for the department and could be equipped with heat-sensing and night vision technology to assist with searches and provide speedy air response to shootings and other incidents.

Although no concerns about privacy were raised by meeting attendees regarding police use of drones, one resident expressed concern about private drones following her children in the neighborhood, while another said privacy concerns about civilian drones are largely unwarranted due to poor camera quality at a far range.

Learn more about Java Cherry: Neighborhood coffee house offers unique appeal in Citrus Heights

Addressing concerns raised about speeding in neighborhoods, Patrol Officer Steve Nottingham told residents that speeding tickets “are the number one ticket we hand out in this city.” He said complaints need to include times and locations of ongoing speeding issues, in order for the department to have sufficient information to respond.

Louise Hansen-Cordray, the owner of Java Cherry, said she was pleased with the turnout of about 25-30 people and was grateful for supportive customers after her latest experience with vandalism. She’s hopeful that customers and community members will now be more alert and call police if they “see things out of the ordinary” at her shop or elsewhere.

She’s also hopeful that the police department will increase its presence at the corner of Auburn Boulevard and Van Maren Lane, especially during night hours when her shop is closed, but she said she’s “not asking for any special patrols.”

Asked what the department has planned in particular after the Java Cherry vandalism, Sgt. Baldwin said a “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design” (CPTED) analysis has been conducted at the location, and officers are currently analyzing the data.

The CPTED analysis is a free service police offer to local businesses that includes assessment of landscaping, lighting, camera placement, and other design aspects to help reduce crime. Baldwin also said officers are “in the area frequently” during day and night time operations.

Java Cherry opened in 2012 and is located at 6720 Van Maren Ln.

Like local news? Sign up for The Sentinel’s free email edition and get two emails a week with all local news and no spam, ever. (Click here)