OCEAN PARK — There’s a new sheriff in town. And he has the help of a bigger, stronger neighborhood watch program.
Pacific County Sheriff Robin Souvenir participated in a question and answer session at the Long Beach Peninsula Community Watch/Neighborhood Watch’s Jan. 24 meeting.
The program, which has around 190 members, serves as an extra support system for the sheriff’s office by providing information and tips.
“It’s our job to listen to you, hear community voices, talk about problems, then bring to light and address the problems,” Souvenir said.
The county’s now-dissolved drug taskforce was a major focus of event attendees.
Reinstating the taskforce was one of Souvenir’s campaign focuses. Bringing the taskforce back would create a dedicated team that focuses on drugs in the county.
Souvenir said he’s working with the county’s state legislators to get the taskforce back. In the meantime, he suggested community members contact the lawmakers to say how important the taskforce is to residents.
The county lost its drug taskforce as part of a statewide funding decision in which multiple counties lost their taskforces, Chief Criminal Deputy Pat Matlock said.
“Do we need more deputies? Yes,” Souvenir said. “One of the biggest helps is the drug taskforce. I’m pretty sure [the legislature is] going to say ‘We need to hear from the community.’”
Matlock is working on starting a program with local police departments to share resources between the sheriff’s office and the departments to target drug use, Souvenir said.
Sheriff’s office deputies are split geographically between the north and south, Souvenir said. At night, at least one deputy covers each side of the county, Souvenir said.
Other focuses of watch members included when to contact law enforcement, mental health training and dispatch reports.
Souvenir encouraged event attendees to contact law enforcement with information on suspicious incidents and emergencies.
“Call us,” Souvenir said. “It’s important so we can adjust times we’re out and areas we’re patrolling.”
The county also supports text-to-911, which allows residents who can’t talk on the phone to text 911 about emergencies.
Another focus of the night was how watch members can continue supporting the sheriff’s office. Souvenir encouraged the team to “keep up the spirit of the community watch” and to continue acting not only as observers but as a team.
“Be safe. Don’t put yourself in a situation you don’t want to be in. Know your neighbors,” Souvenir said. “You want to know who your partners are before you need them.”
For more information on the watch program, contact program coordinator Howard Chang at 425-559-3175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.