Community Policing and Crime Reduction
Community policing has always been a foundational principle at the San Mateo Police Department. Like many agencies, we had a Community Policing Unit in the 1990s, with officers specifically dedicated to community policing. Ultimately, we found that we were much more effective infusing every police officer with skills to engage the community. Police explain our process on contacts and seek to strike at the root of problems for sustainable, community-based solutions. Every officer in our field training program is encouraged to evaluate community issues, identify the root cause, and propose solutions to fix the problem.
Community partnership begins at the top of our organization with an advisory group of community leaders connected to the police chief, and a cross-section of representatives on San Mateo’s neighborhood watch board of directors, representing over 300 neighborhood watch blocks. Highly interactive communication with the public through social media platforms like Nextdoor and Facebook has helped solve several cases. Meaningful connections occur through hands-on interactive programs like the City Services Academy. The San Mateo Police Department partners with our City organization on this program, which has a version for English speakers as well as those for whom English is a second language.
Officers on the street are tuned to the communities they patrol and maintain direct relationships with residents and businesses. More formally, our officers and command staff regularly attend community and neighborhood meetings, both to gain direct insight to neighborhood issues, and to make ourselves available for face-to-face interactions. Events like Coffee-with-a-Cop, the Torch Run, Tip-a-Cop, National Night Out, and neighborhood watch meetings help facilitate these as well. To remain accessible, our area lieutenants are also available to answer any questions posed by community members.
Co-producing Public Safety
When crises occur, they can impact our community even more than they impact our officers. Often, crises involve schools, businesses and/or community groups. We hold community involved training with our stakeholders, so that when these events happen, we know how to interact and everyone understands their role. This includes both live-action scenarios and training on how to collaborate on community messaging in the event of a crisis.
Other issues are longer-term and impact the community over time. We have taken sustainable collaborative approaches to crises such as homelessness and mental health awareness by engaging in creative partnerships with local homeless advocacy groups, housing authorities, employment facilitators, and public health officials. Our Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) serves as a model throughout our county to identify and address people experiencing homelessness in a sustainable way. We also recognize that our homeless population represents a segment of the most vulnerable, who we are sworn to protect.
As a centrally located city in San Mateo County, San Mateo is home to several entities who provide services to the mentally ill. In addition to ensuring that all of our officers are crisis-intervention trained, we partner with County Health and several mental health service providers to ensure that protocols are in place to safely and sensitively address police service calls arising from people in mental health crisis.
Dedication to Youth
The San Mateo Police Department has long been dedicated to building the bond between cops and kids through the award-winning San Mateo Police Activities League (PAL), a non-profit operated in partnership with San Mateo’s Police and Parks and Recreation Departments. In recent years, the San Mateo Police Department has brought in additional resources to create a comprehensive, evidence-based array of wrap-around services to work with our city’s youth and address at-risk situations. We also provide proactive youth and faculty safety education to help divert youth from the criminal justice system when appropriate.
Currently the Youth Services Unit (YSU) has a supervisor overseeing PAL and its staff. PAL serves youth throughout the county, with a focus on those most at risk. Assigned to YSU is a detective, a probation officer to support a certified diversion program, and three school resource officers (SROs).
YSU also has counselors on staff for youth who need them, and the SROs are all certified trainers in the Big Five – a unifying format between the responding police and school districts for action in the event school safety is compromised. Youth and faculty safety education are important to us. Our assigned SROs teach youth social defense skills in middle schools and provide mentorship to teens in the high schools.
Learn more about our youth programs.