New Fillmore Chief McGrath addresses Good Morning Santa Paula!

May 27, 2011
Santa Paula News

The new Chief of the Fillmore Police substation was introduced at the May Good Morning Santa Paula, and Ventura County Sheriff’s Captain Monica McGrath said she is looking forward to serving.

The Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event was held at Logsdon’s Restaurant at the Airport.

A New Jersey native who married into a local farming family, McGrath said she has been working her new assignment for about a month and has been with the VCSD 23 years. “I found my calling” in law enforcement after she graduated from college; her husband of 18 years, Jack is an Ojai VCSD Deputy.

McGrath said her VCSD “career has extended all around the county and now I’m in Fillmore and am pleased and blessed to have such a wonderful community behind me.... With 23 years on the job, truly every day is different,” as are different assignment locales.

Her most difficult assignment was as a sexual assault investigator, and McGrath serves on the Board of Directors of Interface Children Family Services, which operates Santa Paula Family Resource Center. Among Interface services are those for sexual assault victims.

The VCSD rotates captains into contract city chief and other leadership positions every three to four years. McGrath said by replacing former Chief Tim Hagel, “I’ll be filling some pretty big shoes, but I understand we have similar management styles.” Being a woman in law enforcement offers a “different perspective,” but overall, “If you treat people fairly that is how you will be treated.”

The Fillmore Substation offers patrol to the approximately 2.2 square mile city as well as to a larger unincorporated area of about 450 square miles. McGrath said the substation is responsible to the west all the way to Wells Road, east to the Los Angeles County line, and of course areas north and south.

“We have quite a large area” that often is considered highly dangerous, due to limited radio communications. “I know places I wouldn’t see backup” when responding to calls, including those considered potentially the most volatile - domestic violence reports. “When you’re in the middle of nowhere even our radios don’t hear us,” and sometimes communication is only possible with the CHP or Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

What has become a major crime issue is theft, “property crimes, crimes of opportunity,” prompted by valuables being left in unlocked cars or left in plain sight in secured vehicles. Such crimes are especially popular at trailheads where hikers leave their vehicles, but McGrath said a program spearheaded by Hagel provided signage that reminded hikers that their belongings were at risk, “and our thefts went down” as people became more aware of the risks. “Even when I get home at night I make sure everything is secure” to help stymie crimes of opportunity.

“Violent crime has actually gone down,” and McGrath said last year Camarillo - her last assignment - had a “spike” in DUI arrests. There was also a reported rise in “daytime burglaries” that occurred between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. “Burglars don’t like things that are hard to break into,” and she urged property be secured at all times.

The burglaries reported in Camarillo involved multiple suspects: “Two or three, one would knock on the door” to determine if the residence is occupied and if there is no answer wait a few minute before entering. Whether through an unlocked door or broken window, once inside, McGrath said, the burglars were largely interested in stealing “high-end electronics.”

She urged that although one doesn’t have to answer, a knock on the door should be acknowledged, but “don’t answer.... If you have a portable or cell phone just say you’re busy and then call 911” if you are suspicious.

“If it doesn’t look good or feel right usually it isn’t,” and McGrath said a great deterrent to crime is the public reporting their suspicions. “We’re all the eyes and ears of the police,” working as a team, and “if we don’t hear from you we won’t catch them.” McGrath said in the past she has personally called and thanked those who reported incidents they felt were suspect.

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