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Lodi police have a quiet Christmas

Watch commander gets a rare chance to patrol city on silent morning

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Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2013 12:00 am

’Twas the morning for presents

And Christmas Day cheer,

But for Lodi police officers,

Crime was still near

 

Sgt. Eric Versteeg cruised 

Through the streets,

When he spotted a man

Well-known on his beat.

 

In his hands were festive bags,

Covered with Santa’s face,

But when he saw Sgt. Versteeg,

He ran like he was trying to steal third base.

 

Over fences and through yards,

He managed to get away.

But at the scene he left the presents,

Which Versteeg loaded into his sleigh. 

Christmas was a relatively quiet day for Sgt. Eric Versteeg and the small handful of Lodi police officers on duty Christmas Day. So quiet, in fact, he could cruise the streets like he was back on patrol.

The daily duties for the Lodi watch commander, who has been with the force since 2006, cover many aspects of the department.

Versteeg and several other watch commanders oversee the patrol division, dispatch, jail and more. They’re the intermediaries between the patrol and investigation divisions. They’re often responsible for speaking with the news media in the event of a crime.

And they also help shape the future of the department by mentoring young officers.

Versteeg describes his position in the department as somewhere between management and patrol.

“There can be so much going on at once,” he said.

Christmas, though, can be a rare slow day for a watch commander.

So for Versteeg, Wednesday was an opportunity to drive around town, making sure everything was as it should be. He kept an eye out for people with warrants he might recognize, and watched for anything that looked suspicious.

It’s the part of his job from his days as a patrol officer that he misses the most.

“It’s nice to do this again,” Versteeg said inside his patrol car as he canvassed neighborhoods throughout Lodi.

Little time had passed when Versteeg spotted a man he said was well-known within the department.

Versteeg said the man has an outstanding warrant. Last week, he ran from Lodi police officers and got away.

And according to department records, he’s been arrested 40 times in Lodi alone, Versteeg said.

Versteeg saw him walking near Hale Park around 10 a.m., with a hood over his head and two Christmas-themed bags in each hand. Versteeg turned his patrol car around and drove toward the man, who was walking across the street with his head down, paying no mind to the oncoming officer.

But when Versteeg pulled alongside and honked his horn, the man dropped his bags and ran.

He hopped several fences and escaped after a brief chase through nearby yards.

Versteeg returned to the scene, collect the bags and looked inside.

The wanted man’s Christmas day tidings included a blanket and bundle of copper wire.

The run-in was out of the ordinary for the holiday. Disputes between family members are typically the most common calls police respond to on Christmas Day, Versteeg said.

Wednesday continued like any other for Versteeg and the other officers on duty. However, officers are still investigating one crime from early Christmas morning.

Around 5:30 a.m., just before Versteeg went on duty, at least one suspect broke a window near the entrance of Target, located at 2355 W. Kettleman Lane. The suspect rushed to the back of the store, grabbed several electronic devices and fled through a back door, Versteeg said.

Police are investigating whether the burglar is connected to another burglary at a Target in Stockton earlier that morning.

“I don’t know if it was last minute Christmas shopping,” Versteeg said.

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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