CALEXICO, Calif. - The city has a serious crime problem, Calexico Police told us in a series of interviews for KSWT special report focusing on border crime.
We were told the department is actively doing something about crime. And they want the public to know what they can do to help fight border crime, as well.
Police said crime in the area is fueled by drug addiction.
Officer Peter West said, “We have a big drug problem. There’s a lot of drugs coming in and out of the border. So, not only are we dealing with street level drugs – and, I’m talking about heroin addicts and meth addicts that are running around.”
He said addicts commit most burglaries and thefts.
“They’re the ones out smashing windows and breaking into homes so they can steal property and support their habits, eventually,” West said.
The website www.citydatacom stated that Calexico has a higher in crime rate than the U.S. average.
The website www.onlyinyourstate.com names Calexico in the top eight most dangerous cities in the state.
And www.neighborhoodscout.com said a person’s chances of being a crime victim in Calexico are 1 in 25, higher than state’s average.
“Auto theft is huge. Property crime, burglaries is huge here. What I’ve seen lately is a major inflation in the robberies. A lot of people walking around getting robbed by people,” West said.
He said that a large number of cars are stolen every week.
“Maybe 20, 25 being the average. There’s times we’re up to 30,” West exclaimed.
Officer Miguel Carbajal said, “We definitely have a car theft problem here in Calexico, being that we’re so close to the border, makes it easier for criminals to steal the car and take it straight to Mexico.”
Officer Cindy Fraker added, “People are leaving their vehicles unlocked, these thieves are out there in the middle of the night, they’re actually going by touching the door handles to see if the vehicles will open and if they open.”
She explained that drug addiction and unemployment affect crime rate.
The higher the unemployment rate, the more crimes occur,” Fraker said.
Officer West stressed the drug addiction problem.
“At the patrol level, at a normal level, we’re dealing with drug addicts running around in the streets. We’re trying to clean up the streets so people’s cars and property and houses aren’t taken or broken into,” West explained.”
Fighting border crime effectively requires a partnership between police and community, the officers agreed.
Officer West said they practice proactivity while on patrol to catch the bad guys.
“A lot of self-initiated related arrests and vehicle stops, pedestrian contact,” West said.
They stop and question anyone who looks suspicious.
“Whatever legal way we can to get them off the street. We know where they don’t belong. If they’re lurking around in a certain area they don’t live in, they don’t have any legitimate reason to be there, we’re going to legally make contact with them and if they are up to no good, we’re going to take them off the street,” West said.
Traffic stops play a big role in stopping crime.
Traffic Supervisor Gonzalo Gerardo said, “Sometimes vehicles get stopped, sometimes we have intelligence of vehicles that are bringing loads.”
The consensual stop is one type of public contact.
“We’ll see somebody on the sidewalk and we just contact with them because they’re a little suspicious, they don’t look like they belong in the area. And we’ll walk up to them and say, hey, can i talk to you today? That’s a consensual contact,” Fraker said.
And there’s also the investigative stop.
“We have a gentleman there that matches the basic description so we’ll go ahead an contact him, find out if he’s been in that area and everything else,” Fraker explained.
The Cofffee with a Cop monthly events give the public and police a chance to come together.
“It’s to get the general public come out talk to us, find out what their concerns are,” Fraker said.
It gives the community a chance to become part of the crime-fighting team.
“The strategy that we put out to the public, we try to educate them on, is to report any kind of suspicious activity. I always tell people, i don’t care if it’s three in the afternoon or three in the morning. Give us a call. We want to know,” West said.
Fraker added, “Without their information, it makes our jobs very hard.”
Officer Carbajal said community tips can stop a crime or lead to an arrest. He stood near the broken window of a business which had been burglarized recently.
“Somebody who was actually across the street, witnessed the individual break in through the drive-thru window. He looked over and the guy was actually hanging out of the window, going into the business. And that’s when he called us,” Carbajal said.
We asked Officer Gerardo if Calexico was winning the fight against crime or not.
“Sometimes you get the upper hand on it, and sometimes you don’t. It’s not a for sure yes or no,” Gerardo answered.
A city official told us Calexico currently has only 21 officers on duty. He said it should be 40.
Despite the understaffing, Fraker said the department is doing its best.
“We’re being as proactive as we can. We have a lot of calls for service right now. And we’re doing everything we can with the staffing level that we have,” Fraker said.
Officer Carbajal added, “We’re here to help out the people that have a hard time helping themselves.”
“We’re not here to hurt them. We’re here to help them. And they can trust us,” Fraker said.
“I want to go out and catch bad guys and save lives and fight crime. But, my number one goal is to go home to my family at the end of the day,” West concluded.
The officers we interviewed for this special report on border crime agreed that fighting crime effectively requires a partnership between dedicated officers and a community that cares.