Utility Employees on Crime Lookout : City Watch Program Uses More Than 100 People to Be Eyes, Ears for Police

Times Staff Writer

Water and Power Department employees are doing more than checking meter boxes and making repairs these days; they are also watching for crime.

About 100 city employees have been trained to be the eyes and ears of the Police Department under a new City Watch program designed to meet the city's No. 1 goal for 1985: reducing crime.

"We're not making them policemen," said Officer Lionel Salgado, who runs the training program. "We're providing them with awareness training in recognizing criminal activity." And, it is at no extra cost to taxpayers.

5 Sessions Held

So far, Salgado has held five training sessions for Water and Power employees since Dec. 11 and plans to conduct three more next week. If the program is successful, Salgado said, classes will also be held for employees of the Public Works Department.

The training sessions teach employees how to keep an eye out for purse snatchings, open doors or windows that could be signs of a burglary, or simply anything out of the ordinary in quiet residential neighborhoods.

"The work crews are on the street, they're in a lot of residential neighborhoods, they're out there with the public," Salgado said. "The bottom line is that we're asking them to be on the lookout for us."

The suggestion for the City Watch program in Pasadena came from the Water and Power Department, said senior administrative analyst Leslie Hickambottom, and was modeled after a similar operation in Burbank.

"We contacted the Police Department and said we have 150 employees out in the field with car radios and hand radios," Hickambottom said. "We asked if we could be any help to them.

"The city of Burbank had a very similar program," she added, "but I understand it's no longer functioning."

Burbank's program fell by the wayside in 1982 after about a year of operation.

"The ball was dropped," said Burbank Police Sgt. Jeff Pratt, who assembled that city's program. "I don't know if it was because of apathy or because of lack of funds." But, after he left his position as the city's crime-prevention officer, Pratt said, interest in the program waned and training sessions ground to a halt.

Intimidation Factor

Although there were no documented cases of crimes being prevented by the program, "it was very helpful," Pratt said. Simply publicizing the training sessions, as Burbank did, was an important aspect of crime prevention, he said.

"It's an intimidation factor," Pratt said. "You've got to tell people, including the bad guys, that this thing is in force."

Pasadena plans a publicity push of its own, Salgado said, using bumper stickers and handbooks on how to prevent home burglaries. At least for now, lack of interest is not a problem for Pasadena's program although it is too early to tell if the training sessions will be successful in reducing crime.

"So far, we've gotten a very good response from it," said Sgt. Robert Huff of Pasadena's crime prevention unit.

"We're not expecting them (city employees) to go out on patrol like we do," Huff said. "We're just trying to give them something to think about while they're out there besides what they're going to do when they get off work. It only takes 30 seconds for them to call in, and a police officer will come and check it out."

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