Watsonville police assign officer to downtown area

WATSONVILLE, Calif. - Beginning in June, a Watsonville police officer will be patrolling the downtown area and address quality of life issues.

“It is about parking. It is about the homeless people … I'm really concerned with the cleanliness," said business owner Franco Vaca. 
Those are some of the problems Officer Juan Bribiesca will be tackling. He will be either on foot or on a bicycle four days a week to talk with business owners and community members.

Watsonville police said before the position was cut because of staffing shortage, the officer helped improve community relations. And now, the department has enough officers and wants to put one downtown permanently.

"If he (Bribiesca) is down here all the time, they will communicate with him, they will talk to him. They become comfortable with the officer, realizing that we are all part of the same community," said Sgt. Ridgway with Watsonville police.  

Beyond building community relations, Bribiesca will be the go-to person for a range of issues.
"We do have a small gang problems in town ... vagrancy at times. There's some alcohol violations in the plaza park that are addressed by this officer. Also along with just petty theft that might occur at the businesses," Ridgway said.
The city is making progress on reducing crime. Earlier this month, a new report found Watsonville is seeing some of the lowest crime rates in more than a decade.      

Business owners said they're hoping this trend will continue and it also helps the downtown officer is bilingual.

"There are so many things that mean something else, and when you are immersed into the culture, you understand better," Vaca said.

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