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Rotary Report: ‘Your car is a fishing pole’

Martinez Police Chief Manjit Sappal at a recent meeting of the Martinez Rotary. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)
Martinez Police Chief Manjit Sappal at a recent meeting of the Martinez Rotary. (PAUL CRAIG / Courtesy)

Special to the Tribune

NOTE: Rotary Report is an update about featured speakers at Martinez Rotary Club meetings. Rotary meets once a week at Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Road. For meeting times and other inquiries, visit

A fishing pole with bait will sometimes catch fish. A car with bait – you’re the fish. Bad guys are breaking into cars all over town. You don’t want yours to be one of them. Police Chief Manjit Sappal told Martinez Rotary that bad guys look at lots of cars. They typically pick the most promising one. Think about running away from a lion – you don’t need to be faster than the lion; what you need is to be faster than the next guy.

Martinez police look in cars as they walk the streets. They see wallets, packages, purses. The worst thing to leave is keys. Hiding stuff away will help a lot. Better still is not to leave anything in the car at all.

Martinez police are starting to leave warning notes when they see bait. If you find a police warning note on your car, take it seriously.

Our police department is excellent. But it’s small. If one call comes in, they can and do respond to it. If three come at the same time, there’s little or nothing they can do. Better to not need to call them. Set up a block watch program. Be on the lookout for strange people. Be on the lookout for prowling cars. Be alert.


Homelessness is a huge problem in Martinez, in Contra Costa County, and everywhere. For many homeless, the best approach is to help them get a roof over their heads. For some, however, they’re so impaired that – in the words of Chief Sappal – “a front door is beyond their capabilities.” These folk are likely to stay on the street until they collapse.

The good news is that Contra Costa County is moving toward a County-wide data base of homeless people, and toward centralized contact points where the homeless can get help.

Sadly, our homeless problem isn’t going away any time soon. At best, it can be managed.


Rotarians thanked Chief Sappal for his excellent newspaper columns. They’re well-written and informative. Communication between police and citizens is good and getting better. Police are citizens and they’re our neighbors. We’ll all be better off if we recognize this and help each other.

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