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East Palo Alto to fight crime emergency

April 25, 2008 11:50:44 AM PDT
East Palo Alto police officers plan to flood the streets to fight what the police chief calls a "crime emergency."

The city's crime emergency declaration ends on Monday. For two weeks now police have been working overtime and in that period they have made 21 arrests and recovered seven guns, but police are calling that a 'drop in the bucket.'"

Frank, Allen and Chinee share a morning ritual of meeting for coffee at the McDonald's on University Avenue. Over the years, they've seen their share of crime in East Palo Alto. The trio welcomes Friday's "Operation Impact."

"Bring them in here, we need them here bad to stop some of this killing," said Chinee Vrockett, East Palo Alto resident.

So far this year, East Palo Alto has had one sole homicide, but within a 10-day period earlier this month bullets flew striking seven people. The concept behind Operation Impact is familiar, import officers from the California Highway Patrol to beef up the crackdown.

"What they do is they specifically focus on vehicles possibly transporting guns in the city, around the city and out of the city, coming in the city going out," said Capt. John Chalmers, East Palo Alto police department.

Capt. John Chalmers has been on the force for nearly 18-years. He was part of the "Red Team" enforcement in 1992, when federal and state officers were also called into fight high crime. The East Palo Alto police department is comprised of 28 officers, seven short of being fully staffed. Chalmers says the extra CHP officers will make a difference, but some residents aren't convinced.

"The cops can bring as many cops as they want here, but who knows if it'll be safer," said Rudy Chavez, East Palo Alto resident.

Chalmers says comparing crime in the period 2003 to 2005 and the period from 2006 to the present, crime is down 22-percent and homicides down 41-percent. He credits Chief Ron Davis for finally getting the community involved.

"We've gone out and reached out to the community, and the community knows that hey look, we're asking for their help as much as they're asking for our help," said Chalmers.

Chalmers also said that some of the crime is gang related but not all of it. The CHP plans to assign six officers to Operation Impact and that all begins Friday.


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