With the vision of potentially becoming a lawyer, it was almost by accident that Police Chief Chuck Kaye became a police officer when he saw a law enforcement recruiting table in his last semester of college. He has a storied Naval family history with both his dad and grandfather having served in the Navy.
After working in the San Diego Police Department for 27 years, rising up the ranks to assistant chief, he transitioned to his alma mater, San Diego State University, when after eight months the position of Coronado Police Chief opened up and a friend suggested he apply.
He noted that it was an intense interview process, with an estimated 60 candidates. “I never envisioned myself ending up as the Coronado Police Chief, but I’m glad to be here,” he shared, saying that when he did his homework on the position, he especially liked the community support. He also says that all the CPD Officers are here because they want to be, and enjoy connecting with the community, taking pride in providing a high level of service to ensure safety. Since his arrival, the department, which has 70 paid positions in 12 areas, has added a dispatcher and a police officer position. The Senior Volunteer Program, with 30 members, logging nearly 3,500 hours last year, is also an integral part of helping the department.
Outside of Work
A native San Diegan, he’s an avid walker and loves to hike in the mountains and trails around the county. With a love of travel, he and his wife Lisa have fond memories of their
trip to the Amalfi Coast last year where they enjoyed the Mediterranean sea. “Italy never disappoints with its amazing food, people, and sights,” he comments. He also has an affinity for Ireland, probably because of his Irish grandma’s heritage.
As someone who’s always enjoyed photography, when his son and daughter got into sports, he started capturing action moments. “I was the dad who took photos of all the kids.” He was also a volunteer photographer for the North County Times and snapped photos at community events. He won an award for his “Little Squirts” photo, capturing young firefighters at play.
By his own admission, he’s a data guy and that was evident as he presented the yearly police update at a recent City Council meeting. CPD always has at least four police officers and preferably two dispatchers on at all times. Kaye shares that Wednesday is the day that everyone works, providing the most traffic enforcement (so watch out for tickets…).
Kaye can be found all over town having coffee, talking with people, to keep a pulse on what’s happening. One morning at Clayton’s take out window, he engaged a man in conversation to see if he needed a bed or other assistance, which he declined. Another morning when ordering at Starbucks, the staff mentioned that a homeless guy was taking people’s drinks but said he didn’t need to do anything. When Kaye’s name was called, the guy grabbed his drink and Kaye asked him if his name was Chuck. When he said no, Kaye offered him his sandwich and a bed, which he welcomed.
When discussing homelessness in Coronado, Kaye points out that there are natural barriers with the bridge and the strand. It is a topic he well understands from his time with the SDPD, highlighting that it is a complex issue with technicalities to navigate, and success usually happens through incremental efforts. CPD started with one short-term emergency bed at St. Vincent de Paul Village and added an additional bed in 2021. CPD can call ahead and then transport the person, connecting them with needed services. Statistics show that 12 people used the bed in 2020, 29 in 2021, and the number was up to 58 in 2022.
In 2022, dispatchers handled 4,546 Priority 1 calls, which are 911 or life threatening emergency calls with an officer response time of less than five minutes. For Priority 2 calls, which are less emergent, there were 4,642; and 9,780 Priority 3 calls, which are considered cold cases, with a total of more than 35,000 total dispatch calls for lots of miscellaneous inquiries. CPD Officers made a total of 580 arrests last year, including misdemeanors and felonies.
While violent crimes aren’t prevalent in Coronado, they are always near the top of everyone’s concern list. Kaye notes that San Diego has a system which connects all the data for the county, BOLO (be on the lookout), crime reports, etc. This helps in solving cases like the lottery ticket robbery. He states that residents need to be aware that people see Coronado as a town of opportunity, so it is prudent to lock doors and not leave valuables in cars.
Bike Theft, Crime, E-Bikes
Previously, bike thefts were a big concern here, but Kaye jokes that the word must have gotten out, because those statistics are down, from 104 in 2019 to 63 in 2022. In fact, the electronically-monitored bike, which was implemented in 2014 and has racked up more than 100 arrests, has only been stolen once so far this year.
In other crimes, Coronado had six robberies, 36 aggravated assaults, 13 residential burglaries, and 28 non-residential burglaries last year. The CPD Investigations Unit filed more than 400 criminal cases with the District Attorney’s Office, and recovered more than $130,000 in stolen property.
The e-bike phenomenon has been a hot topic in town and CPD quickly responded to help with safety by hosting bike rodeos, which were well attended, but Kaye says there is more to be done. Bike warnings were up from eight in 2019 to 143 in 2022, with bike citations up from nine in 2019 to 93 in 2022. Kaye says that overall, he and CPD officers find Coronado kids respectful. Future plans include a partnership with the Coronado schools to have students who are cited given the option to attend Saturday School that will be spearheaded by Officer Grace Del Bagno, who is currently working on the curriculum, which will include traffic safety.
“There is still room to get the message across, and we hope to do that in a positive way,” he mentions. “I still remember the fear I felt getting my first speeding ticket as a 16-year-old, so we are piloting a program where kids who receive tickets have the option of writing a paper or attending safety classes. With choices, we hope to offer a positive learning experience.”
Getting kids involved in safety is part of the new program, Crown City Safety Ambassadors, which has been implemented at Coronado Middle School, Village Elementary, Silver Strand Elementary, Sacred Heart Parish School, and Christ Church Day School, which will have a projected 471 graduates this school year.
Traffic enforcement continues to be an issue in Coronado with the thousands of cars that come across the bridge or up the strand. In fact, there is a new traffic patrol car that will be monitoring the highest traffic areas: along the Third and Fourth Street corridor, A and B Avenues, Orange Avenue and on the Strand, every Wednesday through Saturday, from 2 pm to midnight.
Last year, there were 10,715 traffic stops, with 4,039 traffic citations, and 921 warnings. There were 211 accidents last year, with 116 of those involving injuries, with one fatality. There were 37 DUI accidents, and 73 DUI arrests in 2022. Vying for parking spaces can be challenging, but the License Plate Readers (LPR) technology has streamlined this process, with officers able to access data in their cars. The number of parking citations increased from 2,588 in 2021 to 7,019 in 2022.
A new FLOCK safety system should be up and running by summer, which will consist of an LPR camera at the Toll Plaza and another, yet to be determined, location on the strand. The cameras will be a passive data collector that read license plates, but not facial recognition, that will help with public safety and fighting crime as suspects leave Coronado. Debuting this summer will also be two e-bikes for officer patrol along the beach and the Orange Avenue corridor.
Citizen RIMS is a new interactive component of CPD’s records management software. Offering greater transparency, the public will be able to access incident information, crime data, missing persons, the media bulletin, and stolen vehicles in real-time. It also includes past activity mapping and allows for security camera registration. Check out Citizen RIMS at www.coronadopd.org
CPD has a variety of ways in which they interact with the community including through social media, Ride to Live, Coffee with a Cop, Concerts in the Park, station tours, safety presentations for children, active shooter presentations, public safety open house, National Prescription Take Back Day, Every 15 Minutes High School Program, Shop with a Cop, Holiday Adopt local military families, and more.
I was genuinely amazed at the scope of services CPD officers provide from solving crimes to rescuing animals, which they have willingly done for me, and the myriad of other challenges they face with the congestion in such a condensed area, interdependent relationships with the Navy and other organizations, and interacting with individuals contemplating suicide on the bridge.
A key message Kaye wants residents to know, “If you have any concerns, please call us with questions. We are happy to talk to you.” You can call the CPD non-emergency line at 619-522-7350.
For more on the Coronado Police Department, click here.