MPD seeks to educate residents
By Michelle Chance
Serious crime in January was down 2 percent compared to last January, Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl said, while all other crime decreased by 12 percent during the comparison period.
“Two percent is actually only one crime, so while one may sound insignificant, it’s one less victim out there on the street,” Stahl said during an interview at the Maricopa Police Department.
According to Stahl, more serious crimes, referred to as “Part 1 crime” by the police, include offenses like homicide, sexual assaults, and aggravated assaults. Examples of “Part 2” crimes are disorderly conduct, DUI and simple assaults.
Property crime is the biggest crime trend in Maricopa, Stahl said. Burglaries were up last month compared to January 2015. Stahl said stolen vehicles and theft from vehicles usually can be easily prevented.
“I know it’s a simple thing, but don’t park your car in the street,” Stahl said. “Park it in the driveway if you can. The best solution is to park it in your garage.”
Stahl said he and his officers work to educate the public on crime prevention during HOA meetings and during the monthly event, Coffee with the Chief, in which the public is encouraged to discuss their concerns about the department with Stahl.
It’s about communication with the public, Stahl said. “We are their guardians. If they do not trust you, you are not going to be a guardian; you are just going to be an enforcer and that is not the direction we want to be.”
Police Commander Gerald Kaphing joined the department in January and said he noticed citizens’ positive responses during public outreach events.
“They go out of their way to tell me they love their chief and what a great job the officers are doing,” Kaphing said.
In addition to promoting public awareness, Stahl said another component to crime prevention is a free house watch program run by MPD volunteers. The program is designed for citizens who go out of town for a period of time. Maricopa residents interested in the service can visit the city website for more information.
The MPD, along with City Manager Gregory Rose, are also looking into implementing surveillance cameras in high-crime areas within the city to assist the department in crime prevention. “The city manager is very supportive of it if we can find grant funding for those things,” Stahl said.
Overall, the chief said his goal for future crime prevention begins with educating youth in the community.
On May 9, the MPD Police Athletic League visited Maricopa Wells Middle School to “increase positive interaction between police officers and those who are highly impressionable,” Stahl said.
The PAL program is comprised of officers who not only offer recreational exercise for the students, but educational topics are discussed as well, according to Ricardo Alvarado, public information officer for MPD.
“There will be a component of education that will give information to the youth to make sure they make good decisions, because the decisions they make now will obviously carry on in the future for them,” Alvarado said.
Desert Wind Middle School, Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathways have also partnered with the PAL program, Alvarado said.