Jul 30, 2014
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Diary from the Citizen Police Academy, Day 2

Animal control and traffic were the topics on Day Two (March 23) of the San Leandro Citizen Police Academy.

Diary from the Citizen Police Academy, Day 2

Our second session of the 's Citizen Police Academy was all about animals and traffic. Maybe it doesn’t sound riveting, but it was definitely enlightening.

Did you know that each household in the City of San Leandro is only legally allowed to have two dogs? Yep. But as long as they aren’t yelpers, you’re not likely to get busted for having more.

Kris Herrera, one of the police department’s animal control officers, talked about the city’s animal policy and related several of her strangest calls for service.

Incidentally, Herrera was recently declared the city’s 2010 Civilian of the Year. Congratulations to her for that honor.

First off, in case you missed our reporting on the , it’s now closed, and all. Stray animals picked up in the city are taken to the Fremont shelter, so if you or someone you know has a lost pet, that’s the place they should call (the contact info is in our ).

SLPD does have portable cages where animals picked up at night stay until the department can contact the shelter.

The department normally does not take in feral cats, but there are several organizations in the East Bay specifically dedicated to feral cats. The Feral Cat Foundation in Alamo lends out trapping equipment in Alameda County (and gives virgin trappers basic instructions).

Both this group and the Fix Our Ferals organization in Berkeley advocate the Trap-Neuter-Return method for keeping feral cat populations under control. You trap the cat yourself, find a place to get it neutered (Fix Our Ferals offers free clinics), and then let it back out into the wild, where at least it won’t reproduce.

Injured wild animals found in San Leandro are taken to the wildlife rehab center at the Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward; dead wild animals are picked up once a week by a company the city contracts out with for that service (while waiting for pickup, the dead animals apparently sit in some facility the police department has that I hope never to see).

Barking dogs: who doesn’t have one on their street? Herrera said it’s one of the more difficult complaints to deal with, especially because the dog usually stops barking as soon as she shows up.

The police department generally doesn’t give out citations for barking dogs unless it’s a persistent problem, Herrera said. Instead, Herrera tries to educate the owner about ways to shush the yapper, including bark collars and moving the dog’s location in the house or yard. 

The department also responds to dog bites, and more cat bites than you might imagine, according to Herrera.

And then there are the cat hoarders — Herrera said police have had to rescue felines from at least three hoarders, including one woman who had about 50 cats in her apartment on Springlake Drive.

Herrera said she hasn’t come across many animal cruelty cases in San Leandro, but some animals have been found abandoned in foreclosed homes.

If you have a skunk or a rat in your house, call Alameda County Vector Control Services or a pest control company, not the police department. And if you’re concerned about rabies, beware of the squirrels, raccoons and bats. They’re the biggest carriers of rabies these days, not dogs, Herrera said.

Backyard chickens are all the rage these days, but a no-no in San Leandro. That is, in most of San Leandro. There is an area of the city, between Menlo Street and the marina, Herrera said, that is still zoned for farm animals. In that area, along with goats, roosters and horses, residents can also have more than two dogs.

As for Herrera’s more memorable calls on the animal control beat, I’ll just mention one. In her first month on the job, she got a call about an injured hawk. She arrived at the scene, saw the size of the animal’s talons, and got a little nervous.

Plucking up her courage, Herrera walked up to the hawk, put the cage down next to it and whispered, “Please get in the cage.” The hawk stepped in. 

TRAFFIC

Sgt. Randy Hudson gave us the traffic overview.

The city’s four traffic cops ride motorcycles for maneuverability. And they ride some serious machines: 850-pound Harley Davidson Road Kings.

Hudson’s first piece of advice was to splurge for the uninsured drivers clause on your car insurance, ’cause there are a lot of them (uninsured drivers), he said. 

The traffic division’s goals are:

1) to reduce traffic hazards and collisions

2) to educate the public on the rules of the road (FYI, the first ticket for talking on your cell phone while driving is $125)

3) to assist traffic engineers with roadway design to reduce accidents

The traffic division also has three parking aides who enforce the city’s parking regulations, and one commercial enforcement officer who makes sure commercial trucks operate safely in the city and aren’t overweight (think potholes).

Traffic cops also do occasional “sting operations” in common jaywalking areas, so watch out, if like me, you sometimes can’t wait for the crossing light to turn green on San Leandro Boulevard by the BART station.

Also, if you’re walking across a street outside of a crosswalk and get hit, apparently it’s your fault.

Setting quotas on the number of traffic tickets written is illegal in California, Hudson explained. However, he said, “As the sergeant, I have goals about how many tickets I’d like to see my officers write.”

If you’ve been pulled over in San Leandro in recent months for a traffic violation, you may have been offered what seemed like a great deal — a lower-cost ticket, and no points on your driver’s license. Well, that’s soon to end.

The city, like many others around the state, began issuing administrative citations last September in lieu of regular traffic tickets. With administrative citations, the city gets 100 percent of the ticket fine, Hudson explained, whereas normal traffic fines are split between the city, county, state and court system.

Administrative citations are obviously a good deal for cities and drivers, but the state was not happy about losing revenue. So the legislature passed a law prohibiting such administrative tickets. It will take effect in June, Hudson said.

DUIs — the police department sets up about three checkpoints a year, usually on East 14th Street. Legally, they have to publicize them, and they still get five to six drunk drivers every time.

The department also occasionally sends out “saturation patrols” strictly to enforce drunk (sober?) driving laws.

Speaking of the law, if you’re under 21, you can get a DUI and lose your license for having just a drop of alcohol in your system. If you’re over 21, you can still get a DUI even if your blood alcohol level is under .08 percent if the officer determines that your driving is impaired.

That goes for driving under the influence of prescription drugs, as well.

If you’re driving under the influence of marijuana, even if you have a medical marijuana card, you can get a DUI if the officer decides your driving is impaired.

On the other hand, if your driving isn’t impaired, it’s not a crime to be under the influence of marijuana, according to traffic officer Nick Corti, who was also at last week’s police academy.

Red Light Photo Enforcement — it’s not going away anytime soon. The city is expected to extend its contract with the Arizona-based company that runs the city’s photo enforcement system for another five years.

The city is, however, removing one of its six cameras, the one on Lewelling Boulevard at Washington Avenue. Most people going through that intersection live in the area, police said, so they all know about the camera by now and don’t run the light.

Despite the hefty tickets they produce, the red light photo enforcement cameras aren’t moneymakers. But Hudson says the cameras do help reduce accidents. I’ll be publishing a story on red light photo cameras soon, so that’s all I’ll say for now.

I’ll end with some statistics that Hudson shared on the traffic unit’s work in 2009.

5,125 traffic citations issued

1,710 reported traffic collisions (to which police responded)

318 DUI arrests

3 fatal traffic collisions

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