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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.

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

Thomas Clarke March 31, 2011 at 04:51 AM
The statistics are wonderful, of course. Did Sergeant Hudson indicate how many citations were handled by the three Traffic Aids? If these three folks worked full time without overtime, they would log in about 6,240 hours. If they were responsible for all 5,125 traffic citations, they would write 1 per hour worked. That seems pretty expensive to me and not very productive. How much revenue came in to the city and did it offset their costs? How much are these people paid in straight salary and how much do their benefits cost? 1 traffic citation an hour worked is not exactly a taxing schedule. The four traffic officers, if they were responsible for the balance of the 2,031 arrests and investigations spent 8,320 hours, assuming no overtime and the work is at full time. That productivity translates to an incident about every half shift or four hours. Again, not a real taxing job. Assuming that the police officers make a fair salary and do not pay for all their benefits, this is pretty expensive help from the police for not much protection. I figure the hours at 2,080 a calendar year for a full time person. I know that the San Leandro Police work hard and protect us, but it seems to me that so far they are not producing much for what it costs us and what we pay. If one adds in the millions lost in lawsuits it is much worse.
Sarah Nash March 31, 2011 at 05:06 AM
Lots of great information here. Thank you!
Marga Lacabe March 31, 2011 at 05:37 AM
What is the policy as to what homeowners should do vis a vis dead wild animals? I call animal control for large ones (opposums, raccoons) and put small ones (mice, squirrels) in the yard trimmings/food waste bins. Does that sound right? As to red light cameras, the extension of the contract is on the agenda for the next City Council meeting but AFAIK it has not been approved yet. Staff wants them to, and City Council members are very fond of rubber stamping staff, but who knows? Maybe one will decide to do their job and actually ask for statistics that show the rate of accidents at each intersections before and after the installation of red light cameras. For some reasons, staff has not been upfront about these statistics. Did you get them, Jill? And did you ask Hudson why the city did not install these cameras at the intersections with the /most accidents/ in the first place? If having them was about preventing accidents, you'd think they'd put them at the most dangerous intersections first.
Fran March 31, 2011 at 02:44 PM
"But as long as they aren’t yelpers, you’re not likely to get busted for having more." And, if I may add, unless your neighbor doesn't like you and makes a complaint. Happened to a friend of mine. So make sure you're on good terms with all your neighbors before getting a third dog. Or better yet, maybe San Leandro can change the ordinance. Most cities allow for at least 3.
Fran March 31, 2011 at 03:08 PM
"Most people going through that intersection live I the area, police said, so they all know about the camera by now and don’t run the light." This is very telling. So they are trying to ticket the poor saps who are not from the area. I thought it was to reduce accidents.
Jill Replogle March 31, 2011 at 03:33 PM
I'm not sure about the dead mice in the compost bin, I'll have to check on that one. About the red light photo cameras, yes, you're right Marga. I shouldn't have made it sound like it's a done deal, it is possible that City Council will not extend the contract (though I'm also pretty sure the contract is already written into the proposed 2012 budget). And yes, I do have the stats on those cameras. I'll get a story out in the next few days.
Pitney April 02, 2011 at 10:46 AM
This modern era dogs are used as passive-aggressive weapons: what bullets are to guns, barking is to dogs. Barking kills--a slow, painful death of a million bee stings. Communities should focus on the root cause of the conflict between barking dog and innocent human: barking. Chronic barking is molestation. The party at fault is the household "owning" the barker. The barking-sufferer has a right live life unmolested. Why do dogs get more rights than people? In a conflict between person and dog, the human should win out every time. Human rights trump dog rights. Who is it who pays the mortgage or rent? Not dogs. Barking makes people--literally--insane. Chronic barking causes the barking-sufferer to not be able to meet his obligations in paying the mortgage or rent and put food on the table. Having a dog takes commitment in time and money. Leaving a dog in a yard unattended/unloved/ignored is a hazard to anyone within earshot. It's ANIMAL NEGLECT. Let there be sizable fines, jail-time, seizure of vehicles. Like 6 months in jail. Or US$1,000. Communities should give power to law enforcement to seize barkers without the dog-owner's knowledge. I used to like dogs. No more. I now loathe dogs. Barkers give the whole canine species a bad name. Responsible dog-owners should pressure "arrant dog-owners who condone chronic barking" to STOP THE BARKING. Dogs have no business around human dwelling areas. Dogs are "guests" and as such, must behave. If dogs don't behave, banish them.
Fran April 02, 2011 at 01:09 PM
While your rant hardly warrants a response. A barking dog is not near as offensive to my ears as a leaf blower )
kelvin May 15, 2011 at 10:55 PM
i undrestand if I jaywalk outside the crosswalk it is illegal by state laws. I happen to cross the middle of the street on san leandro blvd from bart station not using the crosswalk in a hurry to pay a bill at at&t. their were no traffic coming etheir direction got stop by san leandro police. what trouble me the most right on the corner of the intersection. this short pundgy cop from the k-9 unit start question me and his back up arrive. and I was told if have gun, needle or knife in my pocket. and starting padding me down like I was a criminal, by the way I black...
Marga Lacabe May 16, 2011 at 02:30 AM
Kelvin, I wonder if they have a cop dedicated to catching jaywalkers near BART. The same thing happened to a friend of mine (European woman) some years ago. It'd be interesting for Jill to ask the Police as to why, when San Leandro has one of the highest car theft rates in the countries, they are wasting their time with jaywalkers.
Thomas Clarke May 16, 2011 at 05:58 AM
I must confess that you make a lot of sense. Irritating humans should be incarcerated, their vehicles seized and they should be billed for the expenses associated. Those that cannot pay should be neutered or spayed. Loud and aggressive humans should be euthanized immediately upond discovery.
Thomas Clarke May 16, 2011 at 06:01 AM
Fines for jaywalking generate revenue for the city. Preventing car theft does not. It is simple economics.
Thomas Clarke May 16, 2011 at 06:04 AM
The cop may have been looking for the daily trifecta: fine and violation for jay walking; misdemeanor possession of a needle or dope or edged weapon; and felony drug possession. He knows that if you run he can always shoot you and claim assault.
Marga Lacabe May 16, 2011 at 04:01 PM
I'm not sure that the math actually works for the city. Even a starting cop costs the city about $100/hr. How many of these jaywalking tickets can they write an hour (and then go defend in court, if fought) and how much $ goes to the city? BTW, I just looked up CA law on jaywalking and it only applies when you cross the street between two intersections which both have traffic lights. Not an issue for this guy, but good to know for those of us who are pretty punctilious about following traffic laws.
Thomas Clarke May 16, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Marga, your answer is a bit simplistic and not accurate. In short the SLPD can cite as they document. So be safe and cross only in a cross walk. Please note the following California statutes: Jaywalking Laws in California 530. A "roadway" is that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel. CVC § 21954(a) CVC – Pedestrians Outside Crosswalk - Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway so near as to constitute an immediate hazard. (b) The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway. 21955 CVC – Crossing Between Controlled Intersections - Between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic control signal devices or by police officers, pedestrians shall not cross the roadway at any place except in a crosswalk. 21956. No pedestrian shall walk upon any roadway outside of a business or residence district otherwise than close to his left-hand edge of the roadway. 21961. Local Authorities may establish more restrictive pedestrian laws - This chapter does not prevent local authorities from adopting ordinances prohibiting pedestrians from crossing roadways at other than crosswalks.
Jill Replogle May 16, 2011 at 07:23 PM
I assure you there is not an officer assigned to catching jaywalkers. Officers work beats, and one of the beats includes the area around the downtown BART station. If it's a slow day, i.e., the officer hasn't been called out to a more serious crime at the same time, and he/she catches you jaywalking, you might just get stopped and fined.
Marga Lacabe May 16, 2011 at 09:49 PM
Thomas, what from what you quoted do you claim is different from what I said?
Thomas Clarke May 16, 2011 at 10:44 PM
Marga, 21954 CVC 21961 CVC are the first two that come to mind. You did not quote 21955 accurately, since the presence of the police officer also determines whether it is jaywalking. In short, your post on the limitations for the citatation are inaccurate, incomplete and misleading. That is why I posted the three areas of the CVC that I think are generally pertinent. In short, if you jaywalk and the cop cites you, you are likely guilty of an infraction. As Jill correctly pointed out, the SLPD merely saw someone behaving poorly and busted the fellow. So it goes.
Marga Lacabe May 16, 2011 at 11:01 PM
Thomas, I have no idea what you are talking about. What I paraphrased in my comment is what 21955 says 21954 says that pedestrians not on crosswalk must yield to cars that are near them. 21961 means that counties and municipalities can pass more restrictive jaywalking laws. San Leandro has done so, but only for business districts. (see http://dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d01/vc235.htm for definition of such).
Thomas Clarke May 17, 2011 at 01:27 AM
Marga, what you wrote initially on jaywalking was, "BTW, I just looked up CA law on jaywalking and it only applies when you cross the street between two intersections which both have traffic lights." Your statement is not what the law says, as I pointed out and as you did in your follow up posts. You may not understand what I wrote. Sorry. I think it is clear. Generalizing and pontificating without sharing the full extent and proclaiming that it is so is misleading at best and if not downright untrue.
Leah Hall May 17, 2011 at 01:37 AM
hmm....and I thought "Crossfire: Crosswalker's Edition" was cancelled back in 2005. :)
Marga Lacabe May 17, 2011 at 02:07 AM
Thomas, how do you think my statement is different from what the law says? Short of quoting the law, I think I got as close to it as possible.

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