As the summer continues and downtown Gilroy becomes livelier on Friday and Saturday nights, the sight of uniformed police officers walking the neighborhood will become increasingly familiar.
On Friday night, June 28, Gilroy Police Sgt. Juan Rocha and Officer Hugo Delmoral were on the city’s downtown foot detail. When a Gilroy Dispatch reporter caught up to them about 7:15pm, they were having a friendly conversation with an employee they knew from a restaurant on Monterey Street near Sixth Street.
The pair of Gilroy police veterans continued walking north on Monterey Street as the city’s downtown continued to buzz with families and groups of friends out for dinner or just starting to enjoy the weekend.
Delmoral and Rocha didn’t get far before greeting another familiar face, a co-worker who was off duty for the night, enjoying dinner downtown with family and friends. After sharing a quick chat and some laughs, Rocha and Delmoral continued walking slowly.
Just a few more steps northward, the officers again ran into some familiar locals, this time a family with two young children. The family was just leaving dinner at a local restaurant. After another brief chat, the officers gave the children some Gilroy police “Junior Officer” stickers and resumed the beat.
Most of Rocha and Delmoral’s interactions with visitors to downtown Gilroy on June 28 were friendly and positive like these. The officers said that’s how it goes most Friday and Saturday nights—in fact, that’s the point of the police department’s downtown foot detail program.
“We want people to feel safe. We try to get to know people and business owners on a more personal basis,” Delmoral said. “It’s a nice way to build rapport with people.”
The officers are quick to advise downtown business people that they can flag the officers down if they have any issues with a customer or passerby, Rocha said.
Although the downtown foot patrol officers take crime reports or make an arrest “once in a while,” that’s not the focus of the program, added Delmoral. “We’re not out here after people causing trouble.”
The downtown foot detail typically consists of two officers (not always Rocha and Delmoral) on an overtime assignment. They walk the neighborhood from 6pm to 11pm almost every Friday and Saturday night from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day.
On June 28, the officers walked up and down Monterey Street and stopped to say hello to numerous people for a couple hours before finding any potential criminal conduct.
They stopped at Pound 4 Pound Sports Fitness, a boxing gym near Monterey and Fourth streets owned by Robert Guerrero and his family. Delmoral, an avid boxer himself, recently helped start a youth boxing program at Pound 4 Pound to give local kids ages 12-17 a healthy and productive activity to pursue. Everybody in the gym the night of June 28 smiled when they saw Delmoral and Rocha.
Next stop was Golden State Brewery on Monterey Street, which was packed Friday night diners and beer drinkers. “These places don’t bring any trouble,” Delmoral commented on newer establishments such as Golden State and Promised Land Brewing across the street, which seem to attract a mellow crowd.
While the officers were walking June 28 along Monterey Street, numerous motorists slowed down, blew their horns and yelled friendly greetings to Delmoral and Rocha. “Thank you for walking the beat!” yelled one woman from her driver’s seat.
Rocha and Delmoral admit this positive reception is one of the things they like about their jobs. The two Gilroy police veterans’ regular assignments are on patrol during the week, and both moved here from other law enforcement agencies in the region.
Rocha said he moved to the local department from Watsonville Police Department because of “the support the (Gilroy) department has from the community.” He has been a Gilroy police officer for 12 years; Delmoral, for 17 years.
Later in the evening June 28, Delmoral and Rocha made their way to the Caltrain station in the area of Monterey and Seventh streets. Rocha said this area is where they see a concentration of “quality of life” issues related to homelessness, public alcohol consumption and drug use.
As the officers walked up to a bench next to the railroad tracks, they saw three transients with whom they have had contact before. The officers found evidence of recent drug use among the transients—including a syringe, cotton balls and other paraphernalia—but did not arrest or cite them. Instead, Delmoral and Rocha urged them to move along from the area.
From the train station, Rocha and Delmoral walked northward again, this time through an alleyway behind Monterey Street businesses and adjacent to the railroad tracks. It was in this area where they made their first arrest of the night—a woman who had three local warrants for alleged felony violations.
The officers contacted her after checking on a Chevrolet SUV parked in the alleyway that employees of a nearby business had been complaining about, Delmoral later explained. The woman exited the vehicle and gave the officers her ID. After radioing her information to the dispatch center, the officers learned she had warrants for her arrest.
They handcuffed her and read her Miranda rights without incident, then called for a police van to pick her up for booking at the police station on Hanna Street.