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Message from the Chief of Police: November 2016

Martinez Chief of Police, Manjit Sappal. (Martinez Tribune)
Martinez Chief of Police, Manjit Sappal.(Martinez Tribune)

BY MANJIT SAPPAL
Martinez Police Chief

Over the last month we have received several concerns about crime and traffic related issues across the city. In many of the cases we learned that our dispatch center was never called about the activity. It is extremely important that we work together to address problems in our community and one of the first steps is to call us to report crime or concerns.

We rely heavily on you to report any concerns, before they turn into bigger problems, so we can respond and take action accordingly.

Remember, our dispatch number is staffed 24/7 and the direct number is (925) 372-3440.

We are continually working on hiring to bolster our staffing and we recently hired a new officer that previously worked for the City of Stockton. Officer Tatiana Montano was sworn in on Oct. 5, 2016. She has previous experience as a dispatcher with the Concord Police Department and is also bilingual. She is excited to serve the community and we are happy to have her join the MPD family!

On Oct. 7 we hosted a Coffee with a Cop event at the Starbucks in Virginia Hills. We had quite a turnout from the community and we enjoyed chatting with folks. The Coffee with a Cop event is designed to allow the police and community to interact in a casual setting and we are fortunate to have a supportive and engaged community – the turnout was amazing!

We also want to thank the Sunridge Terrace Community for inviting us to their neighborhood party – several officers showed up along with K9 Logan to enjoy the festivities.

Speaking of K9 Logan – he recently suffered a cut to his nose in a training exercise. Fortunately the injury was not too serious, although he had to get a few stitches. The poor guy will have to wear a cone for a few days, but he should be back to normal soon. As we mentioned in a previous Newsletter, we have a new K9 that recently started working with us (K9 Brute with canine handler Breinig) and our staff is picking up a third canine this month, who will be working with Officer Lincoln.

Two of our officers were recognized at the Employee Appreciation Breakfast recently – Officer Estanol who received a service award for 20 years of service along with Officer Miller, who was recognized for 15 years of service. Congratulations to both of you!

We were recently invited to St. Catherine’s by 6th graders for Mass and several officers attended – thanks for the invitation!

As for recent police activity this month – here are a few highlights:

• Officer Breinig and Officer Brinser responded to Berrellesa St. at Embarcadero St. to investigate a report of a vehicle stuck on the railroad tracks. A vehicle was located unoccupied on the tracks just west of the Amtrak station. Officers located and arrested two individuals in the area of the vehicle for being drunk in public. They claimed no knowledge of the vehicle and there were no witnesses that could identify a driver. The vehicle was towed and the two suspects were booked into county jail.

• Officer Mayberry contacted an individual in the 3700 block of Alhambra Ave. and arrested him for possession of a controlled substance. The suspect was booked and released from the station for the possession of dangerous drugs.

• Officer Buda observed a known individual walking in the 900 block of Howe Rd. It was revealed that the individual was wanted for a $35,000 felony warrant for vandalism. He was arrested and booked.

• Officers responded for an alarm at Papa Murphy’s (1155 B Arnold Dr.) for a rear door alarm activation. Officers located the rear door drilled and pried open. An interior latch was still locked and the door would not open. It appeared the unknown suspects were able to slightly pry open the door which activated the alarm, possibly causing them to flee the area prior to PD arrival. The area was searched and no suspects were located. There was no responsible party located for the business to respond. A note was left for the business to contact Ofc. Ramos for information.

• Corporal Mayberry made a traffic stop for expired registration. The driver was cited for driving on a suspended license and the vehicle was impounded. One of the passengers was found to be in possession of two counterfeit $100 bills. She was arrested and booked at MPD.

• A resident reported that a subject was standing in her driveway in the 700 block of Wyoming St. wearing a clown mask. Officers checked the area but were unable to locate anyone outside.

• On Oct. 7 the police department hosted a Coffee with a Cop event at the Starbucks in Virginia Hills. Numerous members of the department attended to include Commander Ghisletta, Sergeant Ferrer, Sergeant Gaul, and Corporal Estanol. Officer Poertner also participated with his canine partner Logan. The event was well attended and Assistant City Manager Anne Cardwell was also present to support the event.

• Officers responded to the 400 block of Arreba St. for a report of a stabbing. Sgt. Salamid arrived and found the suspect at his residence. The victim was located a few blocks away. The two people involved knew each other prior and the assault occurred during an argument. The victim was transported to a hospital and the suspect was booked into MDF. Officer Miller took the case.

• Officer Breinig conducted a traffic stop at Pacheco Blvd. and Plaza Dr. He contacted the driver and noticed that he was displaying symptoms of drug intoxication. Officer Breinig determined that the subject was under the influence of a drug. He was arrested and booked into MDF.

• Ofc. Lekse was dispatched to AHS on a report of a student sending threats to another student. The subjects were contacted and a case was taken.

• Ofc. Miller conducted a proactive stop on a vehicle in the 3700 block of Alhambra Ave. He identified the driver and found she had an outstanding warrant. He arrested her at the scene and released her on a signed promise to appear.

• Ofc. Voyvodich responded to the 600 block of Alhambra Ln. for a female causing a disturbance. He contacted the subject and arrested her for public intoxication. She was booked into MDF.

• Officers were dispatched to Alhambra Ave. and Benham Drive for the report of a vehicle that collided into a tree. The driver was found to be trapped in the car and upon extrication, he was pronounced deceased. The preliminary investigation revealed that excessive speed was a contributing factor.

• Officers responded to a crash on Castro St. at Mellus St. A vehicle struck a parked car and Officer Russell arrested the driver for driving under the influence. No one was injured and the suspect was booked into county jail.

• MPD officers were dispatched to the 400 block of Ferry St. for a report of man with a rifle. Officers arrived and located the adult male subject in the 400 block. Officers determined that the subject brought an antique BB rifle to sell to an antique dealer. A person in an office building nearby saw the subject walking down the street with what was described as a rifle prompting a tactical response. The reporting party was concerned due to recent active shooting events around the country and was unsure if the weapon was real or not. Officer Lincoln advised the subject with the BB gun to in the future place it in a case to avoid any type of misunderstanding which may result in a tragic event. There was no crime to report.

This incident is noteworthy and we posted the following information on Social Media on Oct. 19, 2016:

With all of the news and social media lately covering active shooter situations coupled with informative posts on how replica firearms and air soft guns could be mistaken for the real thing, MPD officers responded to a similar incident today.

At about 10:50 this morning, a caller from a business office in the downtown area reported seeing a man wearing camouflage carrying a rifle while walking down Escobar Street. The caller stated the subject disappeared into a business.

Officers tactically responded to the area unsure if the situation could potentially be a robbery, or an active shooter situation about to occur. Shortly after arriving, officers made contact with the subject and detained him for safety reasons.

It was determined the subject wanted to sell the BB gun and commented that he could not believe the police response due to the item simply being a BB gun. Merchants in the area had a similar response in that they didn’t understand why there was such a serious officer response over just a BB gun.

This is a good reminder to everyone that at a distance, and often times up close, citizens and police officers cannot differentiate between actual firearms and replicas. In this case, the item in question was a BB gun, which could still be dangerous, but not an actual firearm. When transporting such items, care should be taken to ensure your appearance doesn’t replicate a scene from a recent tragedy where someone with a weapon was seen in public just before people were shot and killed.

While MPD officers are trained to employ safe tactics during any response, we need our community’s cooperation to make sure a tragedy that could have been avoided doesn’t happen in Martinez.

On a final note – we have recently heard of Clown sightings across the country and we recently had two reports of people dressed as clowns in our community. For a personal perspective, my 12-year-old asked me about the clown sightings recently and the conversation went like this:

Son: Dad, if I see a clown should I call the police?

Me: Just because you see a clown it does not mean that something bad will happen, so no.

Son: What if the clown tries to kidnap me?

Me: Then yes, call the police.

Son: Yeah, but if I wait to call until the clown walks up to me then I will be kidnapped and it will be too late for me to call. Can I call the police if I see a clown before I get kidnapped?

Me: Good point. … Well, if you ever see something that makes you scared or worried about your safety you can always call the police. So, if you see a clown or anything else that makes you feel unsafe – you can call the police.

Son: Okay, thanks Dad.

I guess the point of this story is that whether you are young or old, or somewhere in between, if you feel unsafe about something, please call the police. We can always respond to make sure that everyone is safe or confirm that there is no threat to public safety.

In fact, I would recommend that you program our non emergency number into your cell phone. If there is an emergency you can call 911, but for something that is not an emergency, you can always call our non-emergency number at (925) 372-3440. If you have it in your phone it will be easier to retrieve it and since you will not have to take the time to look it up, you may be more apt to calling us right away instead of waiting.

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