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Mayor, chief to honor citizens

Fourteen Merced residents will be honored Thursday night by the Merced Police Department for their part in helping solve crimes or arrest criminals. Merced Mayor Ellie Wooten and Police Chief Russ Thomas will make the presentations at 6 p.m. in City Council chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center, 678 W. 18th St.

"It's (recognition) a wonderful thing," Thomas said. "This community is no stronger than the citizens in it. We can only be a better community for it and it's important to take the time to honor these people."

Ceremonies cover incidents from March 2005 to last November and include chasing and arresting perpetrators of crimes, helping people out of burning buildings, preventing an adult from annoying a young girl and keeping a kidnapping from occurring, according to Cmdr. Floyd Higdon.

Thomas hopes to continue the ceremony in future years.

Higdon said the people honored took the next step and got involved when a crime occurred.

"They stood up and said, 'This is not right in our town,'" Higdon said. "Without their help, somebody might have gotten hurt or a suspect might not have been identified. They certainly helped catch suspects in a timely fashion."

Lt. Bimley West said to have a safe city the police must partner with people in the community. That means police must be approachable and empathetic to the needs of the public.

"People can be our eyes and ears, guide us where the suspects are," West said. "It's obvious to us we cannot keep the city safe without citizens being involved."

West doesn't advocate citizens actually apprehending criminals, saying police are equipped to deal with these high-risk incidents. Often suspects are desperate when they commit criminal acts and try to elude being caught.

Higdon conceded any time people get involved in criminal situations, there is a potential risk. He said people realize their job is dangerous and "you never know when something will go wrong."

Still, involved citizens should be recognized for getting potentially dangerous people off the streets before they can commit other crimes, Higdon said.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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