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New Police Chief Meeting With Community Groups to Encourage Participation

New Susanville Police Chief Kevin Jones meets with leaders of local faith-based groups as part of his drive to connect with the community

By Jeremy Couso

Susanville’s new Police Chief Kevin Jones, who was sworn in November 30th, has hit the ground running as the city’s top-ranking law enforcement officer, putting in place an aggressive campaign to connect with the community and to encourage interaction between Susanville residents and his department.

In his first few months in the position Jones has met with leaders of local community organizations and introduced his new #SPDCOMMUNITY campaign which aims to educate Susanville residents about what they can do to work with law enforcement to reduce crime.

“It’s one word, SPDCOMMUNITY,” Chief Jones explained at a meeting with local faith-based organizations in December, “because we need the community and the community needs us. One word, tied together.”

Jones, who began his career with the Susanville Police Department in 1988, said he has a very simple slogan for his department’s new focus, and the mark he plans to leave on the agency during his tenure as Chief, and that is, “Doing what is right for the community.”

He explained that, above all else, his department will work to do what is right for the entire community and that requires participation by the people who live and work here.

“We need help,” said Jones. “I can have the City Council give me ten more officers tomorrow and we are still going to have vehicle thefts, we are going to have squatters, we’re going to have burglaries. Because, we can’t be everywhere at once.”

“So what do we need?” asks Jones. “The community has to help us out.”

Talking about the differences in society today that makes policing more difficult, Jones harkened back to thirty years ago when, if you came out to start your car in the morning and saw a suspicious person, you were likely to call the police.

But that has changed now according to Jones, who asks, “what it is that makes people less likely to report suspicious activity?”

He explained that there are two bulletin boards in the Police Station and each shift he wants officers to log from 5 to 8 field interviews.

“I want to see 5 to 8 names on that board. I want to see us talking to people. If they are on Wildwood Way at 2:00 in the morning and they are headed to the other side of town, give them a ride!”

“Where they doing anything wrong?” continues Jones. “Maybe not, but we just need to know so that when our day shift officers come in and they see 5 or 6 names from night shift, and we get that vehicle theft or that burglary in the same area of that contact the next morning, we’re going to start with those people who don’t live there, but yet were walking around for no reason in that area.”

“I want those people, who are displaying those criminal behaviors – I want them to remember us, and I want them to know we are watching them. And, I want them to know that the community resident down the street, who we just talked to, is going to keep an eye on them while we go away and answer our next call.”

Jones pointed to a rise in thefts as having the greatest impact on the local crime rate; thefts in homes, burglaries and vehicles.

Jones also enthusiastically encouraged Susanville residents to report drug activity.

“Drug possession is still against the law,” explains Jones. “Prop 47 made drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are still against the law.”

Many people, according to Jones, think drug possession has been decriminalized and is not worth enforcing or reporting.

“It’s worth it,” said Jones, “Because once you arrest them once or twice, and you know, arrest them enough times for drug possession, they are going to serve time.”

Jones pointed to a recent sweep of the area which netted law enforcement nearly thirty arrests and took many dealers off of the local streets.

“That’s great, but people are still going to sell drugs when those people are in jail,” Jones said. “They are going to be back, or people are going to replace them, so there is a great need to report any drug activity to law enforcement.”

“Let’s all try and just keep an extra eye out,” said Jones, pointing to Susanville drivers’ innate ability to watch for deer while driving at night as an example of how we can all pay more attention to criminal activity. Always watching out of the corners of our eyes for the danger signs and reporting them when we see them.

Driving at night during the summer months local residents know to constantly scan the road ahead for any deer that might wander on to the roadway.

“So, I know people in Susanville have situational awareness that people in other communities don’t. You are doing the same thing when you go to work, or go to the store, you are seeing things.”

The new Chief also talked about the financial struggles that the department faces, much of which is caused by a shift in the way the CalPERS system operates.

“We are facing hard times in the city,” said Jones. “Public safety is expensive, and we have to do everything we can to maximize every single resource we have.”

“And we can do it,” added Jones. “I am confident.”

The department currently has openings and Jones said he expects to fill many of them but explained that it is extremely difficult to bring officers to our very unique area.

“You have to want to live in Susanville. If you are an aspiring law enforcement officer who just graduated from the academy you can go anywhere on I-5 from the Oregon border down to the Sacramento Valley and pick any department you want because everyone has openings. So, we have to be competitive and find those people who want to invest in our community.”

“It’s incredible what our police department does with the people we have. I see two officer shifts, I say man how do you do it? If someone goes to training, someone has to work overtime. Someone calls in sick, someone has to work overtime. They just do it, they work together as a group.”

“It’s amazing, it’s a very neat culture here. I’m really appreciative of it.”

Looking towards the future Jones said there are some good things on the horizon for the department including a new source of funding in the form of a $430,000 tobacco enforcement grant.
“That’s huge for us! Because we are going to be able to supplant some of our people, and they are going to be able to do some dual roles, at times.”

“The city is developing a strategy where we are going to be able educate and performenforcement on our local retailers, we are going to be able to do enforcement when we are on patrol and we are going to be able to use some of those funds to help our budgets with the primary focus of tobacco enforcement.”

Officers will act as point for the program which will include presentations in schools, checks on retailers and underage smoking enforcement. The work can be done while not answering calls and Jones calls it, “A good way to help our budget out. I’m confident the more money we can bring to the City, our Council will reciprocate with helping on the many projects we have in the department and the potential for adding personnel.”

Jones emphasized a need for more aggressive traffic enforcement in town, especially in school zones, saying that he is not looking for citations but to make the streets safer.

“We have to have a police car in our school zones. We have to have police cars on Main Street during lunch hour. Because we were all sixteen and we know how we drove right?”

Currently, the department is utilizing what Jones called, ‘concentrated patrols’ in all of the city’s school zones. Although the city doesn’t have enough officers to cover every school, each morning from 7:30 to 8:00 a police officer is at one of the local schools, alternating schools on different days of the week.

Every day at lunch officers patrol Main Street and Riverside Drive, the two most common arteries for high school students.

“We are not targeting kids. We are targeting safety.”

All of these plans are part of one over-arching concept for the Chief. “I want to focus on things that make our community safer.”

Jones plans to increase proactive patrols, traffic stops and proactive arrests by at least 50% per month.

“The calls are going to go up initially, but the end game is that they come down.”

Technology is important to the department and according to Jones when you advance technology you can save time, and that time can be put towards proactive uses.

He used body cameras as an example of technology that provides safety and streamlines the process of writing reports, saving an officer an hour of time that he or she can spend in some other facet of their job.

Working with the county, the city has issued a joint RFP for a new records management system to replace the three-decades-old one currently in use. Jones said he remembers when it was first implemented in 1987 and says it has not changed a bit since then.

The city is also working on a new dedicated bandwidth system to give law enforcement cell phone priority during emergencies.

“Technology is not free,” says Jones. “So, we have to strategize.”

Jones stresses that his priority is to the community as a whole and his patrol division “I think once we are fully staffed, we are really going to get going and we need to work with the City to find ways to add positions to the department.”

“We’re not in a ‘take our streets back’ situation. We’re not that bad. There is a lot of crime, but we are still at a place where we don’t need to take our streets back. We have our streets, I just want people to help out.”

Jones touts the need for working together with faith-based organizations, businesses and community members.

“I’m going to ask the community, I need you to do something for me and I’m going to make a concentrated effort to make our community safer, but I need the community support.”

What can we all do to help? Jones encouraged community members to pass the word about the need to work with the department, to report suspicious activity and to start or join a neighborhood watch program.

“We have to get back to the bread and butter of law enforcement.”

“I love this job,” said Jones. “I look at this department, these people, I look at the people who work in the city and I see happy people. I see people who love their jobs. I love this community. I don’t think there is a better place to raise your kids. I don’t care if it was 40 years ago or today.”

“We can’t look at the past,” concludes Jones. “You have to look to the future. Good things are going to happen here, I’m very confident of that and I have a handful of goals and it all comes down to making our community safer.”

If you have a concern or a suggestion Chief Jones encourages you to call or come by and make an appointment to talk to him.


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