Piedmont residents filled the City Hall council chambers Tuesday night to express dismay about two home invasion robberies on Jan. 21 and to ask city officials to step up police patrols.
Also on hand at the city council meeting: brand-new Piedmont Police Chief Richelle Goede, who was sworn into office earlier Tuesday, her first day on the job.
City Administrator Geoffrey Grote said the city's Public Safety Committee will hold a Town Hall meeting on Feb. 12 to address the robberies and hear from local residents. The meeting will be held in either the Veterans Memorial Building or the Piedmont Community Center, "the two biggest places we have," Grote said.
Goede spoke briefly at the beginning of Tuesday's meeting, before leaving to meet with a victim of one of the Jan. 21 home invasions. She stressed the importance of Neighborhood Watch groups in coping with increased crime in the city.
Vice Mayor Margaret Fujioka said she is talking with Grote about funding for several public safety measures: increased overtime for police oficers to patrol Piedmont streets, more police cars equipped with computerized license plate readers (only one Piedmont patrol car is so equipped currently) and more Neighbohood Watch programs.
Fujioka said she'd also like to see the city's Volunteers in Public Safety program "revitalized." The program recruits Piedmont residents to assist the police department with tasks ranging from patrolling parks to helping out in the evidence room. The number of volunteers has lagged in recent years.
Eight local residents addressed the council during the meeting's "open forum" period, with several of them asking for stepped-up police patrols. The city normally has two patrol cars on the street during a shift, although the officers are often interrupted by other tasks, such as responding to burglar alarms and local residents' complaints or requests for assitance.
"Ive lived here half a year, and I don't think I've ever seen a patrol in the Dracena Park area," one speaker said.
Another speaker, who lives on Montecello Avenue, said there was a degree of urgency missing in the city's response to the home invasions.
"This is not what can be stopped by community policing," he said.
A speaker who lives near one of the homes that was robbed Monday noted that several home invasions in Piedmont have occurred during very early in the morning. She asked if the police department could beef up patrols during those hours.
A Ramona Avenue resident said, "This is not a Piedmont overreaction. This is a major violent event that needs to be addressed."
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