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A City of Great Neighbors: Public Safety on the Rise 

Nov14_Cover_HdrFrom law enforcement and the fire department to friends, neighbors and concerned citizens, public safety is everyone’s business.

Today, both public agencies and private concerns are focused on how best to shake off the effects of rising crime, homelessness and tight budgets within the Modesto city limits and beyond. Whether they are riding the rising tide of technology or utilizing strategic partnerships, local leaders are doing their part to make Stanislaus County a better place to live.

The Power of Partnerships

As Stanislaus County’s population has grown (and budgets have shrunk) in recent years, the onus of public safety has increasingly been picked up by private agencies and local citizens. But this socialization of safety doesn’t correlate to negative results in crime prevention, says the Modesto Police Department’s Chief Galen Carroll.

The shift is simply a realistic response to the numbers involved, according to Chief Carroll. Carroll’s department is tasked with finding a way to efficiently spread his police force across a city of more than 200,000 citizens. In response to the task, Carroll says that he encourages everyone from private citizens to business owners to stay vigilant. “I’d rather prevent crime than have to respond to it,” said Carroll, indicating that prevention is often simply about having a watchful eye in the right place.

“…We’re arming the people of Modesto with the information they need to protect themselves.”

Whether an area is patrolled by security professionals from Rank Investigations, one of the other local security companies or simply by concerned citizens who have organized a neighborhood watch, having people on the lookout helps prevent crime and can enable local law enforcement agencies to more effectively administer their resources.

“Granted, if they run across something criminal, they’re going to have to call us anyway, but that helps us prioritize our resources. We’re arming the people of Modesto with the information they need to protect themselves.”

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson backs up this idea that effective policing is about forging productive partnerships between public services and private groups. “Relationships get things done,” says Christianson. “Whether it’s law enforcement, fire, EMS, public health or community based organizations like service, charitable or faith based organizations or even businesses… they’re all very important partners in what we do in serving the people.”

“Unlike many other areas in California, all public safety divisions in Stanislaus County work very well together,” adds Christianson. “Our goal and mission is to put the people first, so it really doesn’t matter where the jurisdictional boundaries lie, our attitudes and our culture are to go out and help and protect and serve our people.”

“…our attitudes and our culture are to go out and help and protect and serve our people.”

According to Fire Chief Sean Slamon, public/private relationships are essential to his role, as well. “The days of public safety agency looking inward for a solution are gone,” said Slamon. “A lot of our solutions are out there with our businesses. I believe when we build relationships, each party is able to communicate what they do and we can find common goals. I think we find that we have a lot more in common with Stanislaus County businesses and citizens than we realize. The best way to find that out is to build that relationship prior to a need.”

Technology’s Role

In addition to these strong relationships, local law enforcement has increasingly relied on technology to increase the efficiency of its crime fighting efforts. According to Chief Carroll, technology has been an increasingly potent tool in his arsenal. “Crime analysis was one of the first things we brought back as the recession eased,” says Carroll. The key division utilizes predictive technology that extrapolates trends from the last 10 years of data to predict where the next crime is likely to occur in the city down to a 500 square foot area. “The boxes are updated each watch, and they’re actually pretty accurate. Your goal is to get police or security officers in that location to keep a crime from happening in that box.” The predictive technology and a major manpower push have enabled the department to reduce the city’s crime rate across the board this year and to surpass 2013’s arrest rate by more than 1,300.

The Modesto Police Department and Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department have invested in other technologies intended to forestall or prevent crime in the city, as well. For example, The Armadillo, a new surveillance vehicle utilized by the Modesto PD that is equipped with four wide-angle lens cameras, four zoom-capable high definition cameras and a big sign proclaiming “Smile, you’re on camera!” The surveillance van has been utilized since earlier this year as a very noticeable means of deterring criminal behavior.

Officers need only drop the surveillance vehicle in front of a problem location to not only capture a 24-hour-per-day record of activity in the area but also communicate that law enforcement is aware of the location’s bad reputation. The Armadillo has been so successful at preventing crime that the department recently purchased a second vehicle so that it can expand the program.

” The more we take the opportunity to educate the community, the better understanding they have of the challenges we face, the better success we’ll have. “

Technology has been a game changer for the Fire Department, as well, according to Chief Slamon. “Today, we have a real need justify our position. The way to do that is using real time data [from streaming cameras to monitoring devices that beam wireless signals to a command base] so we know what the need is, why it is and whether it’s additional apparatus or staffing or whatever it may be. Video and real time data are really helping us improve and be better at the services we provide.”

“Public safety has both an economic impact and a business impact on the community,” adds Christianson. “The more we take the opportunity to educate the community, the better understanding they have of the challenges we face, the better success we’ll have.”

“A lot of people might say bad things about this city, but everybody always follows it up by saying they live in a great neighborhood,” says Chief Carroll. It’s this deep current of love for our individual communities that will ultimately help everyone in Stanislaus County build a community that we want to live in.

“Soon we’re going to have stickers on all of our cars that say Modesto: City of Great Neighbors,” adds Carroll. Because more than anything, the stewards of public safety know that it’s this belief in the inherent goodness of our community that makes our area such an exceptional place to live.

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