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Tenants graduate from volunteer patrol course

June 03, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — They don't get anything for their efforts besides the satisfaction of helping their community.

That's enough.

Friday evening a dozen Calexico Housing Authority residents were honored for finishing training courses that will allow them to join the Volunteer Tenant Patrol, a group of 60 that separates into units to walk around the authority's complexes with eyes peeled for suspicious individuals and circumstances.

The happy moment for the 12 was marked by a graduation ceremony and small reception at the Mario Esquer Housing Development's community center.

Danny Silva, the coordinator of the authority's drug elimination program, said the addition of the 12 recruits will boost the spirits of the whole patrol.


"To keep it alive we constantly have to be recruiting to empower themselves for the community," he said.

To qualify for graduation, the recruits had to learn how to take care of the neighborhood, according to Silva.

"They're residents that walk around, that watch and then report," he said.

A little background: a few years ago the Virginia Crime Prevention Association came into Calexico and conducted a seminar that taught people how to start tenant patrol program. The association's visit was funded by a federal grant, according to Silva.

During that initial training session, a number of authority employees, including Silva, earned certificates that have allowed them to pass along their knowledge to authority residents.

The patrol has grown more in the past few years than many ever thought possible.

"This program is a means to try to reduce crime and drugs, which are destroying lives and destroying families. Drugs are the demons that we have to deal with," Silva said.

As for whether the demon can ever be truly dealt with, Silva said, "I was told by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent once we aren't winning the war on drugs but we are controlling it."

To control it within the authority's developments, Silva said patrol volunteers walk around in the evenings.

"They choose certain hours so they can know what's going on," he said.

Often Calexico Police Officer Isaac Navarro walks with a patrol group.

Patrol members are able to tell Navarro which people don't belong in the complex and sometimes they give the officer tips that might lead to a big narcotics supplier.

"That's the key behind this. What we're trying to do is get the community involved and make them part of the solution. They already know what to do and what to look for," Silva said.

He added: "The Police Department by itself can not do it. Everyone puts the finger on the Police Department about this and that. … It's a partnership, an extension of community policing."

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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