Police hub proposed for Belle Haven area

City leaders are poised to spend $2.2 million to triple the size of a police substation in the Belle Haven neighborhood, the area with the highest crime rate in the city.

The Menlo Park City Council could opt Tuesday to spend $2.2 million in bond money to purchase the 3,800-square-foot space aimed at expanding police services. The site would double as a resource center, allowing residents the option of paying water bills and obtaining police reports without going to City Hall. If approved, construction would begin immediately and finish in the fall of this year, according to a report from police Chief Bruce Goitia.

Belle Haven residents consider the expansion a timely one. The area saw 93 crimes between January and May of 2007, two to three times as many as most other parts of Menlo Park. Serious crimes during that time frame included two rapes, five aggravated assaults and a host of burglaries and stolen cars, according to the Menlo Park Police Department.

“There’s a need for a police presence here, not just because of the crime,” said longtime Belle Haven resident Matt Henry. “It’s important for people in the community, especially youngsters, to grow up with the idea that thepolice aren’t always the bad guys.”

Officers who work the neighborhood are more likely to earn the trust of residents, and less likely to arrest the wrong suspect, Henry said.

“When they are located in the area, they get to know who the bad players are, and a lot of times they jump the wrong guys,” he said.

Mayor Andrew Cohen said he has heard similar sentiments from other residents.

“This would provide an alternative emergency center in a disaster,” Cohen said. He had also pushed unsuccessfully for the project to include some affordable housing for local officers.

Six officers work at the current substation, including one sergeant, two detectives, two officers and one code-enforcement officer. The Police Department is still determining how many will be added once the Belle Haven site is complete, Goitia said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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