Cops, residents get together at McDonald’s

By Emmanuel T. Erediano, Marianas Variety
Original article HERE

OVER cups of coffee, police officers and members of the community talked about public safety issues at McDonald’s Middle Road on Tuesday.

From 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., they formed small groups at different tables to discuss, among other things, traffic violations and serious crime.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Robert Guerrero thanked McDonald’s for launching “Coffee with a Cop” on Saipan.

“We appreciate it and we welcome community input. We are all in this together, not just DPS, so let us work together as one,” he said.

Among those who met with the police officers were children as young as eight years old.

The concerns that Capt. Bernard Santos and Capt. Joe Saures heard included the lack of the enforcement of the curfew law for minors and the three-foot law to protect bikers.

Officers Daniel Maliuyaf, Antonio Kaipat and Jesus Joaquin Santos discussed the neighborhood watch program with Rep. Edwin K. Propst and former Rep. Tina Sablan.

“We had that program before Typhoon Soudelor[in Aug. 2015]. After that, we never got it back on track,” Propst said.

The lawmaker at the same time lauded “Coffee with a Cop” and the participating police officers who, he added, were humble and kind.

Another public-safety issue discussed during the event was the police-to-population ratio in the CNMI.

Saures said the ideal ratio is one to 50. “We only have about 150 police officers for more than 50,000 people,” he said. That’s about one officer for every 333 residents.

“We need a couple of hundred police officers. Of course the more police officers on the ground, the better. That is why we are pushing for more uniformed men. We want a lot of officers in uniform, especially during the holidays. Even our detectives — they will be out in the field to deter any potential crime.”

Officer Norris Kwon said of the 150 police officers, a significant number are assigned to federally funded tasks that have nothing to do with patrolling the villages or watching out for traffic violators.

“These federal grants are very strict and they require the police to do certain tasks, so some of us are not really on patrol,” Kwon said, adding that the actual police-to-population ratio could be 1 officer for every 1,000 residents.

But Saures said officers assigned to federally funded tasks can still respond to incidents and calls for police assistance.

Commissioner Guerrero said they are trying to hire more offices.

Every year, he added, they have an average of 20 graduates from the police academy. “Hopefully we will have more in the next academy,” he said.

DPS is also opening substations in villages, each of which has two police officers.

“That is one of the programs that Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres wants us to implement,” Guerrero said.

There are now substations in Chalan Kanoa and Kagman, and DPS is also reinforcing its Koban station in the Garapan tourist district which will soon have more officers, he added.

In addition, a substation will be opened in San Roque next month, Guerrero said.

Residents can stop by at those substations and have coffee with the police officers, he added.

Crime Stoppers board member Ryan Clayton said “Coffee with a Cop” was “fantastic.”

“It’s a good opportunity for members of the community to come out and talk to the officers. They don’t have that kind of opportunity unless they call 911. It’s good for people to meet those who protect their community,” he said.

McDonald’s branch manager Joe Ayuyu Jr. said the event was successful. “It really exceeded our expectations. We had very good turnout,” he added.