By Matthew Adkins, Vallejo Times Herald | 06/15/16, 5:19 PM PDT
Police say the streets of Vallejo are about to get safer thanks to a nearly half a million dollar grant.
In a recent round of grant approvals awarded by the California Board of State and Community Corrections, the Vallejo Police Department finished second in the process out of every police department in the state and received $447,589 to help strengthen law enforcement operations and community relations, according to a police news release.
“The Vallejo Police Department is deeply committed to building trust and working hand-in-hand with our citizens to address issues and solve problems,” said police chief Andrew Bidou.
Bidou first took lead of the police department approximately two years ago and has since worked successfully to reduce crime and promote a better relationship with the community.
Under his direction, Bidou helped establish a sergeant position within the department to lead community engagement, began the active Coffee with the Cops program, held open houses in police department headquarters, established a 23-member advisory board and promoted increased training for officers, according to the release.
In addition, Bidou’s efforts have grown the number of neighborhood watch groups from 30 to 257 over two years.
“Just two years ago, everything went by the wayside except our emergency response,” Bidou said in an earlier interview with the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). “We were figuring out which emergency to respond to first. Neighborhood Watch was an important resource. What we’ve found is that Neighborhood Watch has been the apparatus to develop communication and to think about policing by what neighborhoods need, because neighborhoods are different.”
Captain John Whitney said the grant will be used to purchase equipment to allow for a new mobile outreach unit, including a camera, laptops, tables, chairs and a van, that may be used during training meetings with the community.
Twenty-six year old veteran of the department, sergeant Brenton Garrick, explained the unit will allow the department’s community service section to bring services directly into neighborhoods where they can make the most impact.
Additionally, plans for the money also include translating vital police forms into Spanish and co-sponsoring important events such as Late Night Basketball (iBall) and Know Your Rights Program, the release read.
The money comes in good time to assist iBall, which is scheduled to begin Friday at Vallejo High School Bottari Gymnasium. It will be held from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturdays from June 17 through July 30.
Last year was the inaugural year for the basketball league and it attracted hundreds of people on its first night. Designed to give inner city youth and young adults options for evening activities during the summer, the program also offers other activities to participants, such as workshops and health screenings.
A previous photograph taken from the opening session of iBall last year by Times-Herald photographer Mike Jory was selected in January by the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. as a “Community Policing in Action” photo contest winner. The picture was featured on the government’s website as a prime example of officers fostering positive connections with the city’s youth.
The department also made waves on social media in May after they collaborated with students from Jesse Bethel High School on a “Running Man Challenge” YouTube video.
The video quickly went viral and earned national attention from major news broadcasting networks. As of Wednesday, the video had amassed just under a million views.
“We are very proud of what we’ve been able to do with very little,” said Bidou in the COPS interview. “We’re becoming the city that people look to as a model — hey, if (Vallejo) can do it, you have no excuse.”