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Police to Set Up Shop in West Covina Mall

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The West Covina Police Department is setting up shop inside the city’s biggest mall, but don’t expect to find any bargains on surplus badges or bulletproof vests.

Betting that a higher profile will mean a more safety-conscious public, police are erecting a 2,500-square-foot Community Education Center at the Plaza at West Covina to educate merchants and citizens in crime prevention techniques.

The storefront is being constructed at a former sports memorabilia store using $35,000 in drug-asset seizure funds. Barring any glitches, the center should debut in early March. Mall security, however, will continue to be provided by Plaza management and normal police patrols.

“At a time when a lot of law enforcement is looked at negatively, we want people to see the human side of it and open the doors to have them join us,” Detective Rudy Lopez said. “Maybe they’ll be better citizens and more likely to report in crimes.”

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The facility, on the mall’s second floor, will offer a 13-session “citizens academy” that will teach residents how to detect gangs and narcotics and how to guard themselves against lurking criminals.

As part of that program, people can sign up to ride along in patrol cars and watch demonstrations of the department’s K-9 and SWAT team operations. A separate approach will be geared to helping city merchants prevent shoplifting, robbery, check and credit fraud, fire dangers and workplace violence, Lopez said.

Classes will be held both day and night and are being partly underwritten by a state job training program that will hold its own sessions there.

The mall provides the space rent-free.

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