Ten years ago, when Santa Ana had the highest rate of crime for all California cities with more than 100,000 population, the city began an aggressive Neighborhood Watch-style program called Community Oriented Policing.
Within two years, crime had dropped to the lowest rate for cities with more than 100,000 people, and much of the credit for that turnaround was given to the program. Thursday night, the city was host to a reception at the Bowers Museum to celebrate COP's 10th anniversary.
About 1,000 active block captains hold regular meetings and organize other activities, including talks and presentations by police officers on crime prevention. The crimes reported by COP members range from speeding cars to drug sales, according to Sgt. Collie Provence. Many participants received awards for their contributions Thursday.
Sgt. Collie Provence said the program, along with the hiring of additional personnel and reorganization within the Police Department, helped the city "reverse the crime rate in two years."
Santa Ana's crime rate has since risen. The city's record of more than 22,000 crimes ranks it eighth out of 30 California cities with populations of 100,000 or more in a 1984 FBI study.
Officials attribute this largely to a rise in population from 155,710 in 1970 to about 226,000 in 1984, with at least another 25,000 undocumented aliens believed to be living in the city.