By Jorge Casuso
September 18 -- Inside his office in the police substation
Downtown, Sgt. Rudy Camarena sits behind a computer with three red
spots glaring on the screen.
In addition to Officer Jeffrey Glaser, Downtown’s Neighborhood
Resource Officer (NRO), who directly answers to headquarters, three
or four additional officers are added to the beat on Fridays and Saturdays,
when crowds on the Third Street Promenade can swell to 10,000 an hour.
They form a row along the bottom of a map of Santa Monica –
the biggest covering the Downtown, then a smaller one on Main Street
and further along the strip, a final one at the Venice border.
The flares signify the crime hotspots in a beachside city of 80,000
that draws tens, and sometimes hundreds, of thousands of visitor
to work, shop and play every day.
“You see the pattern,” says Camarena, who is in charge
of the substation on 2nd Street. “It doesn’t take a
Just a click away is a detailed report of every crime whose corresponding
dots combine to form the flares on the screen.
“We’re looking for trends on a daily basis,” says
Camarena, who is completing his first month on the job. “We’re
looking for patterns. Crime is time-sensitive.”
Camarena closes the browser and heads for the street, where the
dots are not merely pixels, but real life incidents that might need
to be immediately addressed by the 18-year veteran of the force
or by one of the four police officers and ten community service
officers who cover the beat around the clock.
“Being seen, being accessible, being available,” Camarena
says, are the keys to the success of the city’s new neighborhood
policing model, which deploys the same officers to a designated beat
so they can build trusting relationships with those they serve.
“We need to be highly visible and proactive,” he says,
as he walks the Promenade, waving to new acquaintances and popping
into stores to touch base. “We’re there. We’re aware
of what’s going on.”
For Camarena, a Puerto Rican native who attended Samohi, community
relations was the most recent step on the career ladder he has been
climbing since 1990 – from patrol officer to member of the narcotics
vice squad and criminal investigator.
Fluent in Spanish, Camarena still serves as the department’s
liaison with Spanish-language media. But public relations is now a
full-time job, whether he’s fielding calls from a merchant or
walking the Downtown streets.
“We’re out there on a daily basis,” Camarena says.
“We put a face to a name.”