Crime Prevention Team provides unique service to denizens of Orange

By Elysse James

The Orange Police Department’s Crime Prevention team is a powerful force for those that live and work in the city.

The team of three educates people and businesses on preventing crime by forming neighborhood watch groups, creating good security habits, preparing for disaster relief, and staying current on crime trends.

Crime Prevention Specialists Michelle Micallef, Brad Beyer, and Dianna Sapp educate people through the city’s robust neighborhood watch program. They coordinate more than 290 neighborhood watch groups, with four to six meetings per month.

Crime Prevention Specialist Michelle Micallef of the Orange Police Department.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“The City of Orange has one of the most active neighborhood watch programs in Orange County,” Micallef said.

At the meetings, residents receive recent crime data from their neighborhood. The team encourages them to report suspicious activity and teaches them to be good witnesses by noting details like license plate numbers and vehicle and suspect descriptions. Orange PD also offers a business watch that focuses on safety precautions for companies.

“Our officers can’t be everywhere, so we need support on being their eyes and ears,” Micallef said. “Many times, our officer will go and take a report on a home that was broken into and the neighbor across the street will come over and share that (they) saw someone taking the screen off the window earlier today but didn’t call.”

“That’s what neighborhood watch is all about — just being watchful in the neighborhood and knowing to call and report suspicious activity immediately,” Micallef said.

Along with watchfulness comes preventative habits. Residents are told to lock doors and windows and to hide valuable items from view (such as not leaving electronics on the seats of vehicles parked in the driveway).

Orange PD has provided free security inspections and recommendations since the mid 1970s to both residents and businesses.

“We were one of the leading agencies to do it back in the day,” said Beyer, an Orange native. “The great thing is we’ve maintained it through 40-plus years.”

The Orange Police Department runs more than 290 neighborhood watch groups.
Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Beyer led the charge on recommendations for the parking lot of The Outlets at Orange. The center saw a 28 percent drop in crime once new lighting was installed.

“I’m very happy we have a unit like that (and) that we can do a wide variety of things for our citizens,” said Beyer, who’s been with the team 23 years.

Beyer encourages environmental changes that discourage crime, such as improved lighting and address visibility. He digs down to the details, examining the deadbolt locks residents should use and the kind of doors (he recommends solid core). Upon request, the Crime Prevention Team will even provide a list of recommended products.

“We’ll go out and survey the environment inside and out,” Beyer said. “We write a report and give recommendations and it’s just another tool law enforcement uses to try to prevent criminal activity.”

Orange PD Crime Prevention Specialist Michelle Micallef welcomes everyone to a neighborhood watch meeting.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The team reaches the community in other ways as well, such as National Night Out and Open House, which Sapp organized in October 2017, ending the event’s 13-year hiatus.

“It really gets them connected with the community and our police department,” said Sapp, a former Orange PD Explorer who joined the police department to fulfill a desire to give back. “It’s about bringing us together, showing people what we do. It gets people a little more comfortable with their police department.”

During these events, residents learn about other free programs Orange PD offers, such as vacation check; You Are Not Alone (YANA), which sends volunteers out to check on residents who are bedridden or live alone and want visitors; and disaster preparedness training.

Crime Prevention Specialist Michelle Micallef of the Orange Police Department.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Micallef’s passion is the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which she has organized for three years in collaboration with the fire department.

CERT teaches neighborhoods to respond during a disaster, with training on first aid, CPR, directing traffic, filling sandbags, and more. CERT volunteers can also help during emergencies in neighboring cities.

“When you empower people with skills, they can help themselves, their family, their neighbors. It’s awesome,” Micallef said.

Micallef says she’s inspired by the residents and volunteers who take action to make their community safer.

“We all want to help the community have a better quality of life,” Micallef said. “We truly enjoy helping others. That’s the common thread.”

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