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22 San Diego Uptown News | July 22–August 4, 2011 FROM PAGE 2


hosted the International Crime Free Conference. It was one of the first lo- cal municipalities to enter the crime- free program in 1997. Between 1997 and 2009, vio-

lent crime in El Cajon dropped more than 54 percent and prop- erty crime fell 53 percent at properties participating in the crime-free program, according to El Cajon’s Crime Analysis Unit. El Cajon Police Chief Pat Spre-

cco credits the success to his of- ficers and crime-prevention spe- cialists who have forged strong relationships with apartment own- ers and managers. “Before joining the crime free

program, the rental properties in question were averaging nine calls for service each month. Af- ter entering the program, and receiving training and working

closely with police and residents, calls for service dropped 55 per- cent on average,” said Sprecco. As part of the crime-free

program, apartment managers, residents and police hold regu- lar meetings to ensure residents feel ownership in their apartment buildings. Eventually, the resi- dents become the eyes and ears of law enforcement because they have more knowledge about safe- ty and security techniques. “In many of these apartment communities, we’ve seen a dras- tic change in the mindset of these tenants who are now eager to re- port problems to their managers and work together to solve those issues,” said Tim Zehring, the ex- ecutive director of the International Crime Free Association. “Neigh- bors who were once afraid to report crime are now part of an active net- work in their community where in- formation sharing is the norm, not the exception.”u


the San Diego Union-Tribune reported as having owned the nearly 100-year-old building since 1976, was unreachable for comment for this story (although he had been at the scene of the fire on July 6). So we could not ask him what, as an owner of a nearly 100-year- old building for 35 years, pre- cautions he has taken to ensure the building’s fire-resistance. At least two of the 12 or so

residents displaced by the fire told San Diego Uptown News that no alarm sounded before or during the blaze. Evan Knopf, 22, whom we quoted in our July 8 story, said at that time, “…I didn’t realize that it was our building at first because none of the alarms were going off and [I] actually went into the hallway and it was already filled with smoke.” We also quoted resident Francisco Huicochea, 51, who also lived in the build- ing, as saying, “No alarms, noth- ing went on. I just wonder what would have happened if I had been asleep.” However, anoth- er resident subsequently said smoke alarms did sound. “I was home when the fire happened—I heard several smoke alarms go off,” Amy Berg, a former resident of the now gutted apartment building said in an email. “I never saw any indication that [the build- ing] was unsafe. You live in an


old building, I guess you take certain risks, but I never had any reason to believe this build- ing was riskier than any other old building. Of course, I’m not an architect.” Bankers Hill resident Wil-

liam A. Koelsch, a transplanted retiree from Boston who wrote to San Diego Uptown News about his concerns immedi- ately following the fire (see page 6), fears a similar disaster could affect his neighborhood. “I was appalled at the report

of this 100-year-old wooden apartment and business build- ing burning down,” said Koelsh. “Where were the building in- spectors?” Koelsch noted that to his knowledge only one in- spector had shown up the day following the fire to red-tag the fire-ravaged building. “How is it that people are allowed to live in a fire trap that, evidently, had no working smoke or fire alarms or fire doors or fire blocks?” San Diego Uptown News

tried to contact an inspector in the city building department; however, that contact told us standard operating policy is to go through the Mayor’s of- fice. When we contacted the Mayor’s office, public affairs personnel were on vacation. To read more of this story

and learn how the Uptown community is extending a helping hand to residents and businesses affected and/or displaced by the blaze, please visit:


rangements planned,” Williams said. “It’s going to be something really different.” Arcus, who studied at Oberlin

Conservatory and received gradu- ate degrees from the Yale Univer- sity School of Music, said he plans to perform pieces from a variety of composers, including renowned organist Johann Sebastian Bach. Arcus also is planning to incorpo- rate a few original pieces into his evening concert. Since organ music is tradition-

ally performed in church settings, weddings and more intimate indoor concert settings, Balboa Park is an unusual venue for an organ concert. Regardless of the venue,

Williams said she is grateful for an opportunity to perform before an audience, whether it be before an audience of 20 or 2,000—an average crowd size at one of the summer outdoor concerts at Balboa Park.

“For me, it doesn’t really matter

because I’m so engrossed in my music,” Williams said. “But I will say this: When I turn around to speak, it really is phenomenal to look out into a crowd of that size. It just feeds your energy if you get good vibrations from the people listening to you.” Arcus praises the City of San Diego for backing the Summer International Organ Festival con- certs. The Department of Parks and Recreation and Spreckels Organ Society have been working in tan- dem for the past two-plus decades to ensure the concerts are free. “We need the music, and we

need the arts,” Arcus said. “Some- times that can be a hard sell for politicians, especially these days, with budgeting issues. But I think it’s incredibly essential to society.” In the weeks ahead, a few

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crowd-pleasers will be returning as the concert series begins to wind down. Organist Dennis James, for example, will mark his return to the outdoor festival series Aug. 22 with a silent movie night. Spreckels will be showing the 1924 Paramount Films classic, “Pe- ter Pan,” on the big screen while James plays accompanying music. The Spreckels Organ Society

was born out of a donation to the city. John D. and Adolf Spreckels, of the Spreckels sugar family, donated their instrument—con- sidered the largest outdoor pipe organ in America. Ron DeFields, president of the

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society’s board of trustees, said the organization and the free concerts have endured for more than two decades because of a dedicated, passionate group of volunteers and people pledging funds to keep the events returning each year. “I’m retired, so for me this, is my give-back period; I look at it as a part of my civic work,” DeFields said. “I know for a lot of the other trustees, it’s a true labor of love to serve.” DeFields said he also wants to

dispel any myths about the quality of the concerts and the cost. “Dedicated, generous people

are covering all the costs so these concerts are available to anyone,” he said. “People should never feel that just because an event is of little or no cost, it isn’t worthwhile to go to. That would be very short-sighted.” In addition to the summer con-

certs on Monday nights, Spreckels hosts Sunday concerts, at 2 p.m., with Williams and guest artists throughout the year. The organiza- tion also spearheads a variety of other events and initiatives.u

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