Robbie Faris took the role as spokesman for 20 households that united
out of mutual concern for the community's safety.
"In and of itself, the recovery of a drug doesn't mean that sheriffs
would do anything," he said. "In light of the discovery, nothing changed,
and we began to feel frustrated during that time."
Fearing that drugs were being dealt in their town, residents undertook
their own surveillance. They pinpointed the activities to an apartment.
Faris, a one-time drug enforcement officer, said people would frequently
arrive and leave the apartment in taxis at all hours of the night.
"The drug dealer was living in one of the converted units, and people
would arrive anywhere between midnight and dawn -- run in, then run back
out and leave," Faris said.
Residents continued to alert the Sheriff's Department of the
suspicious activities, but they still didn't get the response they
wanted. They pressed on, identifying what they said was a possible
pattern of drug dealing from the suspicious apartment. When an arrest was
finally made, it was made by Garden Grove police who had been after the
Soon after the arrest, Sheriff's Deputy Kent McBride was assigned to
Sunset Beach. He is the Sheriff's Department liaison in a new venture
known as the Neighborhood Enhancement Team -- a program designed to
improve the quality of life in about 12 Orange County communities.
McBride said the program began in early July, but it took time to iron
out details and delayed the start until September.
"Residents of Sunset Beach had notified the landlord of his tenant
problem, and that's how I got involved," McBride said. "I started on
Sept. 8 by going to a community meeting, and from there I picked up the
ball and ran with it."
McBride, who refers to this method of policing as "the holistic
approach," says it is a team effort, involving the county's Code
Enforcement and Public Works departments, the residents, and Orange
County Sheriff Michael Carona's desire to provide better community
"We really watch over the community and not just act as the policing
authority," McBride said. "Our mission is to bring the resources of the
county to address the community problems."
The Neighborhood Enhancement Program has already achieved many
victories, the most important of which may be restoring the community's
peace of mind, Faris said.
Faris said McBride has worked well with the residents and recently was
able to get code enforcers to red-tag the suspicious apartment and force
the landlord to convert the property back to a duplex.
The subsequent outcome resulted in the disruptive tenant being forced
to move out.
"There is a significant change in the feeling of personal safety and
quality of life in that we don't have that drug dealer in that
neighborhood anymore," Faris said. "Now, this gives us more time to focus
on noncriminal-related improvementsto our community."