Los Altos Police Chief Andy Galea delivered both good news and bad news to members of the Rotary Club of Los Altos: The good is that they live in a safe community, and the bad is that because it’s so safe, some people don’t take precautions such as locking their doors and windows or setting their alarms.
Sworn in as chief in 2016 after seven years on the local police force, Galea said his department’s priorities are child and school safety, traffic safety, safe and secure neighborhoods, emergency preparedness and safe shopping districts.
In Los Altos, prevalent crimes include theft, auto theft and residential burglary. Tried-and-true advice still holds true, he said: Never leave anything visible in a parked car – take it along or lock it in the trunk.
The Los Altos police force is relatively small, with 32 sworn officers, five of whom are female. Despite being a small force, they answer 43,000 phone calls annually and respond to 18,000 of them. A large part of the public safety budget – including the fire department, crossing guards, animal control and emergency preparedness – is contracted labor.
Four officers are dedicated to traffic enforcement. Congestion and the Waze app have brought commuter traffic into quiet neighborhoods, Galea said, and radar trailers are now the most requested tool for traffic safety. Not only do they warn speeders to slow down, he added, they also capture information.
Galea shared news of two upcoming services: Residents will soon have the ability to text their 911 emergency calls, and a new department K-9 has been ordered and will arrive soon to work with Officer Kelli Janda.
According to Galea, the police department gets involved in community gatherings such as the Kiwanis Pet Parade, Emergency Operations Center drills, the Pumpkin Carving with a Cop event and National Night Out.
“Everybody loves to see cops on bikes or with dogs,” he said.
Despite extensive public outreach, Galea reminded Rotarians that no police department can do the job alone. His officers encourage public input and repeat the adage: “If you see something, say something, and call 911.”
Serving and protecting
Los Altos officers now wear body cameras and last year received three formal citizen complaints. According to Galea, a Standard of Conduct complaint was evaluated and deemed to be unfounded, a Misconduct complaint resulted in the officer’s exoneration and a Use of Force complaint remains under investigation.
In view of recent active shooter incidents in schools, school resource officers teach a new, safer response to firearms attacks. Because it’s unwise to depend solely on calling 911 when threatened by an active shooter, the latest advice is to run, hide and even defend yourself as a last resort.
Marlene Cowan is a member of the Rotary Club of Los Altos. For more information, visit losaltosrotary.org.