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Police department's PSA garners buzz, helps lower number of car burglaries

By KBell
Jan. 7, 2011 at 5:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 6, 2011 at 7:07 p.m.

Officer Chris Guerra, with the Victoria Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit, reminds people to lock, take or hide their belongings in the department's holiday public service announcement. In the background, members of the department's crime scene unit provide the background music to the new rendition of "Sleigh Ride." They are Holly Jedlicka, Katherine Rodriguez and Crystal Lara.

Officer Chris Guerra might be more recognizable in a wig than in his Victoria Police Department uniform.

The crime prevention officer channeled his inner Elvis for a holiday public service announcement that has caused quite a stir, just as intended, Guerra said.

"These commercials that are so out there and not so typical, I think it generates the buzz because it's so unexpected," he said. "Hopefully, people are talking about what makes them laugh."

The minute-long commercial features Guerra singing a revamped version of "Sleigh Ride" that reminds people to lock up, take or hide their belongings. Everyone from Guerra's dolled-up background singers to the car burglars are employees of the police department, moonlighting as actors.

"Our crime scene technicians are really multi-talented. They can fingerprint your car or sing backup for you," Police Chief Bruce Ure joked.

But in all seriousness, the message seems to have worked. While also crediting extra patrol and hard work by the auto-theft division, Ure said the commercial contributed to a 51 percent decrease in car burglaries this December compared to last.

"You don't get these results by one method only," Ure said. "A lot of times in crime prevention, you never know the crimes you prevent," he said, with the addition that this December saw less car burglaries than any other month.

Guerra said he wanted to go so far as to "ruin" the Christmas song in order to get the message out.

"I don't want people to be able to remember what the actual lyrics are to this song," he said. "Hopefully that jingle would pop into peoples' heads, and they'd say, 'oh yeah, I need to lock up.'"

The commercial, made in conjunction with Bright Idea Media, cost the department less than $2,000 to produce. Ure said that's a small price to pay for reducing vehicle burglaries from 129 in December 2009 to only 62 this year.

"When you think about it, that's 60 plus burglaries. Times that by officer's time - about three hours on each case - and it's cost-effective," Ure said.

Guerra echoed that, saying a lot of the crime prevention techniques he employs, like giving talks, only reach a small number of people.

"When we have a message that we need to get out to a broader audience, the commercials are the best route," he said. "They're a lot of work, but the amount of man hours it takes to make the commercials compared to the amount of people it reaches - there's really no comparison."

Around the same time they made the holiday commercial, Guerra and Officer Willie Whitfield also filmed an announcement called, "Operation ID," which encourages people to maintain an inventory of their property. The commercial and a radio version are now playing.

Guerra is the mastermind behind the department's commercials, but he is quick to acknowledge the people who bring his conception to life - like the production company, department staff and people in the community who donate various props.

Thanks to the support and the success, Guerra said he hopes to make at least three more commercials this year.

"A teaser - next year for holiday time, I have something in store that I think people will really like."



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