Meet the people who are keeping Richmond residents safe

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Recipients of the 36th Annual Crime Prevention Awards pose with members of the Richmond Police Department Crime Prevention Program Executive Board at the a banquet at the Richmond Recreation center on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. (All photos by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

They’re described as shining examples of a community policing strategy that is oft-credited for a significant reduction in crime in Richmond in the last decade. 

And in some cases, the people helping to keep Richmond residents safe aren’t even police officers.

On Saturday, the 36th Annual Crime Prevention Awards Banquet honored law enforcement and community members who have gone above and beyond their call to duty.

Recognized this year were three Officers of the Year and several community members, including a neighborhood watch group and a local business.

Officer Alexis Bartley, Officer of the Year

Officer Alexis Bartley

Officer Alexis Bartley of the Bravo Unit received Officer of the Year honors for her vigilant efforts to battle human trafficking along 23rd Street in Richmond. She was nominated for the award by Dana Filkowski, supervising prosecutor of the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office’s Domestic Violence Unit, a partner in the coalition trying to eradicate human trafficking on the merchants corridor.

Officer Bartley was the primary organizing force behind the recent Community Improvement Event that went door to door in neighborhoods along 23rd Street to offer support with free security lights, cameras, and fence repair, Filkowski said in nominating Bartley. The crime prevention event was a partnership with the West County Family Justice Center, DA’s office, Home Depot, Community Violence Solutions (CVS) and other stakeholders.

Officer Bartley “treats victims with dignity and respect, encouraging them to use resources like CVS and the Family Justice Center, Filkowski added.

She also listens to community concerns and updates neighbors and businesses on crime trends and prevention strategies.

“She has taken many dangerous pimps and traffickers off the streets of Richmond while working collaboratively with her team and community partners to protect victims and residents,” Filkowski said. “She has testified as a court expert on human trafficking and pimping. Her passion for and dedication to this community is inspiring and I am privileged to work with her.”

Sgt. Eddie Russell, Officer of the Year

The department veteran has worked in a variety of areas and is quite knowledgeable in many areas of crime prevention. It is the way he shares that knowledge, however, that is highly effective and appreciated.

Sgt. Russell was nominated as Officer of the Year by Cindy Haden, a private investigator who chairs the Richmond Main Street Initiative’s Clean & Safe Committee. He is an “excellent, interesting, engaging speaker with many stories to tell from his many years with the Department,” Haden said. 

Haden was particularly impressed by Sgt. Russell’s  humorous, and serious, talk at a crime prevention monthly meeting on robberies and burglaries.

“He gave all of us food for thought and ideas to protect ourselves when out and about,” she said.

Sgt. Russell also works with the Police Explorers as an advisor, and gives his time generously to the program’s youth participants who are looking to improve themselves and perhaps pursue and career in policing.

Lt. Felix Tan, Officer of the Year

Lt. Felix Tan

The Richmond Police Department credits a shift to community-based policing, or a strengthening of bonds between officers and the residents they serve with the aim of preventing crime, with a significant reduction in crime over the last decade.

That’s in part why Lt. Tan was named Officer of the Year.

Tan was nominated for his dedication and commitment to the Citizens Ambassador Academy, which educates and trains local residents on various police disciplines in an 8-week, 40-hour course. As the lead instructor and facilitator for the citizen’s academy, Tan was described as “a true leader, ensuring his students had the tools and knowledge to successfully complete the class.”

“All graduates walked away from this course with skills in starting up their own neighborhood watch, how to report specific incidents/crimes, how and where to volunteer for Richmond city events, many rules and regulations, a general sense of how the police department works,” said Melissa Amescua, a program graduate, in her nomination of Tan. “Including the daily life of an officer, through ride alongs, presentations and re-enactments of actual police scenarios, we all learned and thoroughly enjoyed the academy. Lt. Tan continues to be a resource to all of us, answering questions and being a friend to his fellow students.”

Howard Stavedahl, Volunteer of the Year

Stavedahl was named to this award for his “selfless devotion to communicate with our neighbors the values of a strong community.” He not only leads his neighborhood watch program, but also is helping launch and lead neighborhood watch captains in Richmond/El Sobrante areas including Amend, Fascination Circle, Ponderosa Court, Little Peak, Big Bear, Solitude, Raincloud, Silver Belt and Devils Drop Ct.

“I think it is time to recognize Howard for his years of service in helping our community of neighbors to be more aware and vigilant, ” said Mike Goon, a fellow neighborhood watch group member.

Bendrick Foster, Volunteer of the Year

Bendrick Foster was named Volunteer of the Year for his neighborhood at the 36th Annual Community Safety Awards at the Richmond Recreation building on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. (All photos by Mike Kinney)

As a young man, Foster was caught up in street life, but after having his first child he turned his life around and launched the New Life Movement, a nonprofit that operates out of John F. Kennedy Park and works to reduce youth truancy and create safe neighborhood passageways.

Foster was nominated for Volunteer of the Year by Madalyn Law, chair of the Park Plaza Neighborhood Council.

“My first introduction to Bendrick was when Park Plaza Neighborhood Council and City of Richmond was in the process of rebuilding JFK Park,” Law stated in her nomination of Foster. “Through his organization he mentors and guides at risk youth, encouraging them to graduate, become entrepreneurs and live successful positive lives. Most of his work is done in JFK Park before and after school focusing on the youth attending Kennedy High School and King Elementary.”

In addition, Foster has been “instrumental” in helping remove individuals using JFK Park for drugs and alcohol. Some of those individuals “have cleaned up and now help with organizing activities for the kids in the park,” according to Law.

Foster also serves as vice president of Park Plaza Neighborhood Council.

Nathan Hartwell, Volunteer of the Year

Hartwell isn’t just a good neighbor, but also a “handyman with a heart,” according to Annie King-Meredith, member of the Shields Reid Neighborhood Watch Group.

“Mr. Hartwell is a humble, good-spirited, skilled handyman that always has a smile on his face,” King-Meredith said.

He’s the highly active treasurer of the Shield-Reid Neighborhood Council and a member of the Neighborhood Watch Team in North Richmond.

He helps neighbors low on funds with household maintenance or fence repair, and is so involved and ever-present that in the neighborhood that he looks out for everyone’s safety. That may mean admonishing kids and adults alike for bad behavior from time to time, King-Meredith said.

“Some may even say that he sees and hears too much at times,” he said.

He can often be seen handing out neighborhood watch signs or literature and will empower Spanish-speaking families with his knowledge on public safety 

“He works effortlessly in making sure that no one [in the community] is a stranger,” King-Meredith said.

Pandora Turner, Service Award

Pandora Turner recites her speech after accepting the Service Award.

A lifelong public servant who has spent the majority of her career in youth development, Turner serves as treasurer for the Richmond Police Activities League (RPAL).

And she’s credited as integral to RPAL’s efforts to provide uplifting activities to underserved local youth.

City of Richmond Crime Prevention Manager Michelle Milam nominated Turner for the award.

“She takes an active role in the day to day operations of RPAL and the Kiwins program, a special program to support young leaders in the community and develop them,” Milam said. “She also organizes many community events from backpack giveaways, to the RPAL Back-To-School-Carnival, and to Shop with A Cop, a wonderful program that provides young people with opportunities to connect with police officers during the holidays.”

She goes beyond the 9-5 weekday work schedule to set up informational booths at night and on weekends for RPAL and helps organize many of the agency’s outreach and fundraising events. She does it all without protest, Milam said.

“She is extremely resourceful and goes out of her way to be helpful to develop relationships with community groups and planning committees, such as Richmond Juneteenth,” Milam said. “Pandora does a lot of this without complaining, and provides the support needed for RPAL to do a lot of the activities that it does. She deserves the recognition.”

Baylands50, Neighborhood Watch Group of the Year

This neighborhood watch group covering Bayview Highland Avenue, Highland Avenue, S. 56th, S. 57th, S. 58th and S.59th streets, has about 60 resident members of varying generations. Their name, Baylands50, reflects the street names.

Among their activities, the group holds a monthly “watch walk” were they walk their neighborhood, meet neighbors, and make them aware of what’s going on in the neighborhood in order to promote public safety.

Bridge Storage and Artspace, Business of the Year

Jeff Wright, owner of Bridge Storage and ArtSpace.

The Sante Fe Neighborhood Council nominated Bridge Storage and ArtSpace, located at 23 Maine Ave., because of its positive impact on the council and neighborhood for many years.

Years back, the family-owned business transitioned from solely storage units to include spaces for the arts, culture and community events. Its impact goes far beyond its property lines, according to the neighborhood council.

“In the process of developing the ArtSpace, Bridge has transformed the lower block of Maine Ave from a traditional drug corner into a busy neighborhood with persons from many walks of life visiting throughout the day and night, partaking in arts and culture activities,” according to the Neighborhood Council.

Bridge was credited with installing security cameras, purchasing a known drug house, gating an area under the freeway known for drug dealing, using, and loitering, and overall improving the streets and enabling businesses like Authentic Fitness Gym to open.

“Coupled with the redevelopment of Santa Fe Union Park on South 2nd St, in which Bridge played a major role, the neighborhood now has numerous recreational opportunities for youth, seniors and everyone in between,” the neighborhood council stated, adding, “there is no doubt that Bridge Storage and ArtSpace has helped bring great improvements in safety and crime reduction to the neighborhood.”

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The Richmond Police Department Crime Prevention Program Executive Board consists of Al Perez-Chairperson, Mary Robert-Vice Chair, Karla Perez-Secretary and other board members Myrtle Braxton, Cindy Haden, Vinay Pimple, Naomi Williams and Julia Wong. From the Richmond Police Department was Bisa French, Interim Chief of Police, Michelle Miliam, Crime Prevention Manager and Mandy Swirsding, Assistant Crime Prevention Specialist.

Richmond Interim Police Chief Bisa French

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