City council members discuss the Tehachapi Neighborhood Improvement Project at the Feb. 4 meeting.

Tehachapi Police officers may soon visit many city neighborhoods, offering security cameras and urging residents to voluntarily adhere to municipal and building codes in an effort to reduce crime.

“We will begin a concentrated effort to improve the conditions of the neighborhoods throughout the city. The Tehachapi Neighborhood Improvement Project will provide services from a community-oriented police approach by working and partnering with residents to identify problems and formulate solutions,” Tehachapi Police Chief Kent Kroeger said at the Feb. 4 City Council meeting. 

City officials hope the project, and an approved agreement with security company Ring LLC to provide cameras, will help combat crime and improve local properties.

The City Council heard a presentation about the proposed project Feb. 4, and unanimously voted in favor of the agreement with the security company.

Officers will first visit homes in the neighborhoods north of the railroad tracks to conduct surveys, provide education, offer community engagement for a Neighborhood Watch program and to help correct any violations.

The city will offer — in partnership with Ring LLC — video and camera doorbell technology for 100 city residences at a discounted price to help prevent and record any crimes. The technology will allow the user to record, see and speak with a visitor at the home through their mobile device before opening the door.

The first area selected was “chosen based on its geographic location and it makes sense to us to start in a smaller area and it's the oldest area in town,” Kroeger said. He added, “We are not out there to issue citations and to issue notices. Our interest is to gain voluntary compliance.”

Individual residents will pay less because the city would use $5,000 of funding and Ring LLC would chip in $5,000.

More than eight options are available and have a one-time cost ranging from $79.99 to $149 with the discount. A $30 yearly subscription is required in connection with the purchase.

Video footage would not automatically be accessed by the police department, but homeowners could voluntarily provide it in any investigation, said Key Budge, the city's community engagement specialist.

Councilman Kenneth R. Hetge, said, “I think it's a fantastic idea and it's a proactive way that we approach policing.” He added that the subject must be approached carefully as it is a sensitive issue.

“There are a lot of folks in this particular area that are legacy families and have been there a long time and I know that when somebody comes knocking on your door and asks you to clean up your backyard or to repair your fence there is a little bit of a personal issue,” Hetge said.

Councilman Phil Smith echoed that opinion.

“Its a win-win,” Smith said. “The return on investment on something like this is going to be huge.”

He added that neighborhoods will feel safer when the security measures cut down on crime. If in the future the program is successful, the city can talk about reaching out to other neighborhoods.

Community organizations have come on board to help with home maintenance. Waste Management, Mountain Bible Church, Christian Life Assembly, and Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard are interested in helping homeowners.

“During this process with the officers going to homes, they will no doubt identify people that would like to definitely comply, but physically and maybe even financially are unable to, so we had to figure out a way to create a solution how to address that. Part of that was to partner with churches and community groups that can assist these homes with maintenance,” said Corey Costelloe, assistant to the city manager who is helping with community engagement.

While the city has seen an overall reduction in Part 1 crimes (the most serious) over the last five years, in 2018 there were 63 more of these crimes than the year before.

Other news

The City Council appointed Cristin Lassen to fill the vacant board position on the Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District. Lassen will serve a four-year term, which is to expire on Feb. 3, 2023, and is replacing former board member Mary Lou Corpus-Zamudios.

The board voted 3-1, with Mayor Susan Wiggins, Michael Davies and Joan Pogon-Cord in favor, and one abstention from councilman Hetge. The only additional application was from Michael J. Puffer.