Joe Trejo is a resource for the local community.
Take a stroll through downtown Newhall, or stop by the Community Center behind the Metrolink station, and you may run into Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Trejo, smiling and talking with local residents. It seems like the most natural thing in the world, but his job is still a bit unusual in modern law enforcement. Joe Trejo is walking a beat.
For more than 14 years, Trejo has served as a community relations officer for Newhall, tasked with not only patrolling and protecting the community, but participating as well. He is involved with the daily goings-on at the Community Center, where he keeps an office, and addresses the concerns of local residents and businesses. Before coming to Newhall he was stationed in West Hollywood, where he worked a similar job, building relationships and trust with the local community.
“One of the things that’s nice about my job is that because I have been down there for a while, there’s some consistency,” said Trejo. “People get comfortable with you. They know that they can approach you. They feel safe with you and they can be 100 percent honest, so that they don’t have any fear of getting in trouble.”
Trejo says the natural anxiety the public feels around law enforcement personnel can lead to underreporting of crime. Police work is made difficult when residents don’t feel comfortable going to a sheriff’s deputy when they have a problem. Because this can be especially prevalent among Hispanic communities, it was important to the sheriff’s department to have a deputy fluent in Spanish whom the community could relate to. And Trejo is just that: your friendly neighborhood sheriff’s deputy.
The use of beat cops, or community policing, has experienced something of a revival in recent decades. Police and sheriff’s departments have been rediscovering the value of the visible, engaged presence of community relations and resource officers like Trejo. He cited one instance when a resident came to him with information leading to the resolution of a homicide case. The person had never met Trejo, but knew of his reputation, and came to the Community Center for help.
Growing up in downtown Los Angeles, Trejo credits much of his interest in law enforcement to his brother-in-law, who walked a local beat. He says his life experience is proof that you don’t have to be limited by what kind of neighborhood you came from. He reminds the youth he works with that if they study and work hard, “you can be just like me.”