IntroductionProject Safe is a program developed by the Redwood City Police Department in response to the crime and quality of life issues involving Sequoia Station. Project SAFE serves as a model that brings together the appropriate individuals and organizations to discuss community safety issues and comprehensive strategies to address anti-social behavior and crime related issues at Sequoia Station. This program seeks to mobilize the collaborative efforts of a broad spectrum of community partners and stakeholders into a unified force that can be collectively responsible and accountable for promoting the safety, health, and welfare of our community. The Redwood City Police Department has developed Project SAFE in response to complaints received from residents, business owners, and commuters regarding issues of crime and blight in and around the Sequoia Station shopping center, as well as our historical knowledge and efforts to efficiently police the area.
Project SAFE represents a Department wide commitment to provide a multi-faceted approach to crime and quality of life issues surrounding Sequoia Station. The project will utilize members from the Administrative, Investigative, and Patrol divisions of the Redwood City Police Department; in collaboration with the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department and the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force (SMCNTF). Other essential constituents committed to the program include business owners, property management representatives, community based organizations, and mental health facilitators.
The Department is working closely with community based organizations to ensure that homeless and mental health candidates that are contacted are connected with the proper services.
Project Safe has been successful in creating positive climate change at Sequoia Station and surrounding areas. During 2013, its inaugural year, Project Safe produced measurable increases in business profits, reduced violent and property crimes in the area, eliminated blight, and created a sense of comfort and security among those who work, shop and visit Sequoia Station.
Prior to launching Project Safe, the Department examined the many facets associated with the public safety concerns at Sequoia Station. This analysis has included identifying key stakeholders, underlying causal factors and practical solutions.
Crime and DisorderCriminal violations observed at Sequoia Station range from public intoxication and aggressive panhandling, to narcotics sales and on some occasions, physical assaults. Some of these issues can be characterized as forthright criminal conduct, however many issues relating to this conduct are often seamlessly integrated with other concerns that are non-criminal in nature. These include mental health, homelessness and substance addiction. For example, an individual who is most appropriately afforded mental health resources today may be arrested for narcotics sales or assault tomorrow. Since these challenges require different interventions, Department personnel are striving to address these problems with more holistic approaches designed to mitigate the underlying causes of criminal conduct.
Mental Health IssuesIt has been determined through numerous contacts and field interviews over a protracted period of time that Sequoia Station is a gathering location for individuals faced with various mental health challenges. To date, the most significant concern is whether these individuals are receiving the resources and appropriate supervision they need to integrate successfully and peacefully into society. Research by the Department has shown that multiple mental health service providers, including nearby residential care homes, have sent or transported mental health clients to Sequoia Station in an attempt to facilitate their clients' societal acclimation. What has emerged as a chief concern is whether those service providers are providing the necessary level of oversight to these clients while they are at Sequoia Station. The Department feels that it is self-evident that all such clients deserve the support and supervision necessary to succeed in this endeavor. In order to prevent conflict with patrons, businesses, and others facing mental health challenges, the Department felt it necessary to examine to what extent these supportive services were being provided.
Since numerous mental health agencies are involved in this issue, the Department has begun establishing ongoing relationships with these entities in an attempt to forge consistency in their operational protocols, and to produce better collaboration among all stakeholders. The outcome now being sought is to produce operational practices that are mutually beneficial to those clients receiving services and the community at-large. To date, significant success has been realized through these efforts, however much work remains to be done with some of these agencies and sustainable change will come only through strengthening these interagency relationships.
HomelessnessHomelessness is an unfortunate social condition with many nuances and underlying causes. The condition of homelessness is not criminal in nature, nor should the condition of homelessness itself be addresses through the application of criminal enforcement. Yet police officers encounter homeless individuals at Sequoia Station on a daily basis. Indeed, homelessness rarely presents itself as a solitary challenge, but rather in conjunction with other conditions such as mental health and chemical dependencies, thus complicating attempts to apply sustainable solutions.
While some individuals, families and youth find themselves homeless as a result of economic or other extraordinary circumstances, the vast majority of those routinely found at Sequoia Station are solitary homeless adults. Most are facing mental health and/or debilitating substance addictions. This demographic has traditionally proved difficult to program with since the very nature of their disorders inhibits the voluntary application of treatment.
While resources exist to assist the homeless, a significant proportion of those homeless individuals frequenting Sequoia Station will not avail themselves to homeless placement services when such services are offered to them. These efforts are further complicated by well-intentioned overtures by employees and patrons who provide food or other accommodations to these individuals outside the structure of an organized program. While they may seem to be humanitarian gestures, providing free food or washing facilities, circumvents other structured programming designed to assist homeless adults. In order to realize greater success in placing and treating the homeless, wrap-around services must be applied in conjunction with subsistence resources in order to be successful. When comforts such as unregulated access to restrooms, expired food give-aways, and permanent common-area seating are removed, homeless individuals requiring therapeutic and restorative services are more likely to seek structured alternatives.
In keeping with these concerns, the Department has begun working with homeless advocacy services in an attempt to bolster placement rates through stronger interoperability practices and in-field activities designed to pair services with prospective homeless clients on the spot whenever possible.
Business CollaborationTremendous incentives exist for businesses to become more educated on the totality of circumstances that affect the climate at Sequoia Station. Of key importance for the Department has been imparting a clear understanding of the roles that all businesses and their employees have in the effort to improve this climate. With this in mind, the Department has met with many businesses at Sequoia Station to develop strong and lasting partnerships designed to standardize employee conduct, develop supportive business practices, and improve the sense of security at Sequoia Station. This effort is continuing as additional businesses are contacted and introduced to concepts relating to employee and patron safety.
The Department has undertaken this task by first identifying key stakeholders and obtaining their input on their concerns and those of their patrons. The Department has also sought commitments from these businesses, which will ensure their involvement in all solutions and their long-term sustainability. The Department is utilizing its patrol officers to meet with and educate business owners and their employees about best safety practices, reporting procedures, and other practices that will potentially influence the success of this collective effort.
One objective of the business collaboration effort has been to increase accountability of private security resources. The goal is to ensure that those providing security services at Sequoia Station take a more assertive role within the context of their authority in order to meaningfully contribute to the concerted effort now being mounted.
School CollaborationSequoia High School is located just across the street from Sequoia Station. The proximity of the school has resulted in truants visiting the center during school hours, and an even larger number of unsupervised youth at the conclusion the school day. This has presented an opportunity for the Department’s school resource officer (SRO) to work more closely with the Sequoia High School administration to develop greater interoperability with regard to reducing truancy. Greater efficacy will aid the Department in reducing youth-based criminal activity at Sequoia Station while presenting a fiscal incentive to Sequoia High School by increasing Average Daily Attendance figures.
Interagency CollaborationWhile Sequoia Station falls squarely within the jurisdiction of the Redwood City Police Department, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Transit Police has jurisdiction over the adjacent transit hub. The Department has requested and has subsequently received the commitment of additional resources and focused patrols from Sheriff Greg Munks and his staff, as available resources and time permit. Assigned Sheriff's Office personnel now participate in weekly planning meetings with personnel from the Redwood City Police Department and the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.
The Department has requested and has subsequently received the commitment of dedicated prosecutorial staff to focus on cases emanating from Sequoia Station enforcement activities. District Attorney's Office personnel assigned to this effort are asked to continually evaluate enforcement plans for conformance to statutory and constitutional requirements. Additionally, participants in this collaborative relationship have increased the level of investigative completeness and case viability specific to cases emanating from enforcement activities at Sequoia Station.
The following chart depicts a categorical overview of the various programmatic efforts associated with the Sequoia Station Project SAFE Program.
The Redwood City Police Department will continue to ensure that Sequoia Station remains a safe and comfortable location for residents and visitors to go.