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Q&A With the Police Captain: Dan Christman

Christman talks about the drug abuse problem in Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Penasquitos, parenting and the role of cell phones in fighting crime.

Capt. Dan Christman has been running the San Diego Police Department's Northeastern Division since July, with an eye toward stopping home burglaries in Rancho Bernardo, gang problems in Mira Mesa and drug issues in Rancho Peñasquitos.

The son of a former police officer, Christman has been with SDPD since 1982 and previously worked as a lieutenant in the Northeastern Division from 1997 to 2001. He has also worked in the Southeastern Division and returns to this community from his most recent assignment in Internal Affairs. Much has changed in policing since Christman started his career, from the most popular drugs on the streets to how quickly people can report crimes. 

Christman sat down with Patch recently to talk about his history in the department, crime trends in RB and PQ and how parents putting too much trust in teens can enable drug abuse in the home.

[Editor's Note: Questions have been paraphrased for clarity.]

Patch: Since you took over in July, what crime areas have you prioritized?

Christman: "Certainly we're concerned any time there's an assault against a persom from a strange, in particular, and we pay atention to those crimes. I'm very concerned about home burglaries. It's a real invasion of your private space and it tends to make people feel much less safe and much less at ease when their home has been violated.

"Plus, often things are stolen that are really important to people that they can't just get back—keepsakes, jewelery."

The captain also said there are issues with Asian gangs in Mira Mesa and drug abuse (heroin, prescription drugs) through Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Peñasquitos.

Patch: What do you suggests parents do to keep their kids from becoming addicted to prescription drugs?

Christman: While local law enforcement has a program for people drop off prescription drugs at the 4S Ranch and Poway sheriff's stations to get them out of the home, prevention often just comes down to the parent-child relationship, Christman said.

"It's just good parenting and the same kinds of things, advice, that advisors and counselors have been giving for a long time to parents which is pay attention to who your kids hang out with. Try and create an environment where your kids spend a lot of time in your house, but not an environment where you're so tolerant of your kids' activity and you allow your kids so much privacy that they can do things you don't want them to do in your house.

"There's a balance between tolerance and privacy and oversight. Particularly, the younger the kids are—teen years, 12 to 15—those are the times where you're still holding onto oversight and you gradually start giving it away as they get a little bit older, but you still really need to have that supervision and oversight of what your kids are doing.

"Easiest thing: Don't keep pain medication in the house. If you have a bad back or you're prescribed something, a lot of people will keep it because they go, well, if I get hurt it's nice to have. People need to be afraid of that and get rid of it."

Patch: Why do you think crime has been falling over the years?

Christman: Everybody has a theory on falling crime, from sociologists to criminologists, and his theory is far from an expert's opinion, Christman said.

But since we asked, the captain shared his theories on the possible falling crime: harshing sentencing and cell phones.

Tougher sentencing standards that put people behind bars for longer, and the Three Strikes Law, seem to have coincided with the drop in crime, he said.

"I think that there is a statistical correlation between those laws and downturn in the crime over the last 10 or 12 years. Now we're letting people out [because of overcrowding] and starting to see an upswing for the first time in a long time. ...That's an observation. It's hard to say the exact cause and effect," Christman said.

And then there are cell phones.

"It was really just part of everyday life as a police officer when I was patrolling streets for a citizen to call in on a serious crime that had just occurred, but it 'just occurred' 10 minutes prior because they had to go get to a phone, either home or a business or a pay phone someplace. So just occurring 10 minutes prior, four blocks away is a whole lot different from seeing something, picking up your phone, calling the police and saying, 'And I'm looking at the guy running towards the 7-Eleven,' or something.

"And that's the difference between today's call to the police and yesteryear's call the police which was almost never right away unless something was occurring in somebody's home."

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