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Police to Open Downtown Substation : Law enforcement: Department hopes storefront office will counter crime and improve area’s atmosphere.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

To counter crime and to foster a welcome atmosphere for shoppers and tourists, Ventura police plan to open a storefront office downtown, resuming bicycle and foot patrols in the area and on the Promenade.

Many nearby residents and store owners see the substation as a boon to the community.

“Whenever you have police available and around, it’s a plus,” said Wendell Redies, maintenance supervisor at BuenaVista Condominiums, adjacent to the Promenade, which is off Harbor Boulevard between the Holiday Inn and Seaside Park. “It’s definitely a good idea and we definitely need it.”

Homeowners and apartment dwellers near the Promenade are scheduled to meet police officers Thursday evening to discuss the storefront unit and residents’ concerns.

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Police bike and foot patrols, which were regularly scheduled as recently as three years ago, were discontinued on a regular basis about two years ago because of budget cuts and personnel losses.

Still searching for a site on California or Main streets, Ventura police hope the storefront substation--the fourth in the city--will be open by December.

“What we have found with the other storefronts is a decrease in crime,” said Officer Ron Rojo, one of the two officers assigned since July to patrol an area from Ventura Avenue to Ash Street and from Poli Street to the beach. “We are hoping that our presence will improve the quality of life down there. We’re restoring the old concept of the beat cop.”

Thanks to a three-year, $225,000 federal Justice Department grant and $396,000 in city funds through April, 1998, the Ventura Police Department will be able to pay the salaries of two officers at the new storefront office, Rojo said.

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But organizers of the storefront program hope to get community support, such as free office space or assistance with rent payments, volunteer support staff and donations of equipment. A fund-raiser sponsored by the Downtown Ventura Assn. is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 8 at 87 N. Chestnut St. Donation is $5.

“There’s not a big crime rate, but we do have a problem with theft, vagrancy and aggressive panhandling,” said Tim O’Neil, association president.

“It’s a security thing, but it’s more than that,” O’Neil said. “It’s positive interaction between the business owners, the community and law enforcement. This complements everything else we’re trying to do down here with the redevelopment, and I see the storefront as being an extension of this renaissance.”

Ventura officials have inaugurated a multimillion-dollar face lift at the California Street Plaza courtyard near the Holiday Inn, renovated the pier, supported pier restaurants and revitalized the downtown business district with landscaping and new pavement.

“Visibility has to improve the character of a neighborhood,” said Ken Davis, president of the 99-member BuenaVista Homeowners Assn. “I don’t think any of our members have been physically harmed, but it’s come down to the point where it’s an area you just don’t go after dark.”

Davis said he thinks numerous residents will volunteer to help staff the substation. “I think it’s a very exciting prospect for people who live and use the Promenade area.”


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