Flanked by an elementary school and a corner-store hangout popular with Eastside gang members, the Franklin Neighborhood Center on Montecito Street is now home to the city police department’s freshly minted Community Policing Office. An informal drop-in center staffed by a rotating mix of officers — many of them Spanish-speaking — the space is meant to engender a sense of trust and access sometimes lost in the intimidating atmosphere of police headquarters.
The one-year pilot program, explained Sgt. Riley Harwood, was hatched in partnership with the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, which offered the $10,000-a-year property for free. Its three rooms — complete with leather couches, coffee and snacks, and artwork created by Franklin Elementary School students — have already been visited by area residents voicing concerns and asking for advice about driver’s licenses, their children, and interactions with gangs, Officer Adrian Gutierrez said.
Taking pains to note the center is not a police substation — meaning no one will be booked or interviewed at the location — Harwood said if all goes well with the Eastside office, the department may look to the Westside for another space. Right now, Gutierrez is holding court at the center and making announcements about its opening on Radio Bronco. Chief Cam Sanchez said he’ll be scheduling office hours for walk-in visitors, as well.