By Mike Hazlip—
Residents gathered at a Nov. 21 meeting of Citrus Heights Area Seven Eight and Nine (CHASEN) to voice concerns over what they described as rising crime and nuisance in the area.
In an often-heated exchange that followed a presentation on forensic science by Citrus Heights Police Sgt. Janet Schaefer, residents voiced claims of retail theft, attempted assaults, and lewd sexual behavior in the Copperwood Square shopping center and surrounding locations.
“These people are out of freaking control,” one resident who lives on Ramwood Way said. “That area behind FoodMaxx, out of control. When I was a kid growing up, I didn’t have to come home until the lights went out. I can’t even let my kid go to 7-Eleven on her scooter.”
Joining residents frustrated with what they described as a lack of police response in the area were Karen Pastor of Pastor’s Valero gas station and her son-in-law Scott.
“We are here tonight because we are so frustrated,” she said. “We are not rude, we are nice until we can no longer be nice. My job as an employer I take very seriously. My job is to protect my employees and my customers. Citrus Heights Police — on one hand, a lot of clapping, on the other hand they have let us down as a business.”
Pastor added that police officers responding to trespassing calls at her business often do not cite the offenders. She cited one incident where an individual took a swing at a police officer, and another incident where an individual put their hands on an employee.
“You tell me what I need to do, you tell me what me and my employees need to do to have protection,” Pastor said. “To where our rights supersede the criminal’s rights. Because I’ll tell you what, we’re feeling pretty s***ty at Pastor’s Valero. Somebody’s going to get hurt.”
Another woman attending the meeting said she is a former employee of a childcare facility in the area and found evidence of lewd sexual behavior on outside toys on their property. She said the business had security camera evidence of the suspect and called police who found him nearby but did not arrest the man. Schaefer asked for the case number saying she would personally look into the matter.
“I want you to know that we care, I don’t want any of the officers to serve you in a way to make you think that they don’t,” Schaefer said.
At one point, CHASEN President Bill Shirley stepped in and called for calm as the discussion began to devolve into a shouting match.
Sgt. Schaefer listened to the complaints and encouraged residents, business owners, and property owners to call and report every incident.
“I want you to know that I hear you,” Schaefer said. “And I want you to know that I, we, feel an ownership of this city. This is my city too.”
While the sergeant said an officer’s ability to enforce laws like vandalism and trespassing is different on private property, she urged residents to use the city’s See Click Fix app to report any incidents. Reports submitted with the app first go to the city’s Department of General Services where they can then be raised to the attention of law enforcement.
Schaefer said she personally looked up the call log for a business in the Copperwood Square that is reportedly the target of frequent shoplifting, but found no reports from the business for 2023. Her comments reiterated what police have said is often the case where residents or businesses complain about crime, but fail to report incidents to police.
Schaefer said she joined in the residents’ frustration, and urged citizens to report anything they see, even if the suspect is not immediately arrested. Each report helps police determine where the “hot spots” are, she said.
“As a sergeant, my job is to tell my officers where I would like them to patrol as service calls allow,” she said, adding that police respond to about 300 calls each day.
She said police cooperation with the owners and managers of private commercial properties is an important factor in reducing crimes such as retail theft and trespassing in shopping centers and other commercial properties.
“What I want to do for Pastor’s, personally, I want to make that a personal project of mine,” Schaefer said. “I feel your guys passion, I feel passionate about responding as well.”
A man who said he currently sleeps in his car at the Copperwood Square shopping plaza also spoke up at the meeting, calling homelessness a “giant crisis.” The man, who did not identify himself, said he has a master’s degree, 17 years of teaching experience, and 12 years as a restaurant manager, and called homelessness a “victimless crime.” He advocated for mental health assistance for people experiencing homelessness saying illegal drug use is a way many homeless people self-medicate.
Citrus Heights Police Lt. Michael Wells issued a statement to The Sentinel following the meeting, saying that police are “aware of concerns identified during the CHASEN meeting with several locations.” He also cautioned that posting concerns about crime on social media “does not ensure that the police department will receive the information.”
“As a part of our crime reduction strategy, we routinely respond to calls related to blight, nuisances and larceny in these areas,” Wells said. “Whether you are on your way to work, shopping at a store, or traveling, it’s important to remember that we all play a role in keeping our community safe. Always stay alert and say something when you see something suspicious.”
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By Mike Hazlip—
Residents gathered at a Nov. 21 meeting of Citrus Heights Area Seven Eight and Nine (CHASEN) to voice concerns over what they described as rising crime and nuisance in the area...
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