The lunchtime crowd at the North Berkeley Senior Center is a tough audience for a performer. Dishes clatter, conversations continue, servers move among the tables trying to get food to hungry and sometimes impatient diners.
Tess Artizada of the Berkeley Police Department is undaunted, though. She performs this gig every-other month, and she has become accustomed to the room.
Suzanne Ryan, the center’s director, gives her a brief introduction, and Artizada takes the microphone.
“Hi, I’m Tess Artizada,” she says. “Most of you probably know me. My friend, Woody Brady, and I are here today to talk about some things you can do to stay safe during the holidays....”
A few faces in the audience turn toward her. Most are still directed at their table-mates or their lunches. The rest are trying to catch the attention of waiters, moving around the room.
But where a less experienced speaker might blush and start to sweat, Artizada knuckles down and plows through her material. She’s a professional.
As a civilian – or “non-sworn,” as police tend to say – in the BPD’s Community Services Division, Artizada gives these presentations all the time. She goes to senior centers, schools, community events and festivals, educating citizens on how to prevent or reduce crimes of all sorts.
Her last speech at the North Berkeley Senior Center was about domestic violence. Next time, she thinks, it will cover identity theft. She’s trying to get one of the BPD detectives to come with her for that one.
For Tuesday’s presentation, though, she runs through a personal security brochure put out by the state attorney general’s office.
Artizada goes through the brochure point by point, emphasizing those that
would be of most concern to seniors. She borrows a purse from a woman to illustrate the proper way to carry it when out on the street.
“Keep it securely front of you,” she says. “If it hangs off to the side, it’s easier to grab.”
Men, she says, should wear a fanny pack – but it’s important to wear it in the front, not the back. She gestures toward Brady, who lifts his shirt to reveal the proper arrangement.
When waiting at a bus stop, she says, keep your money ready.
“So you can hand it right to the thief!” shouts a wag.
Artizada appreciates the joke, but one gets the sense she has heard it before.
“Trying to reach out to the community is very challenging,” she says. “It’s hard to get people involved – they usually only get concerned after something happens to them.”
“We’re trying to get people to be more proactive,” says Brady. “You let your guard down if nothing happens to you for a while.”
Before this stint with the BPD in April 1996, Artizada lived and worked in Harrisburg, Penn. She worked in hospitals and for a travel agent while pursuing a degree in criminal justice at a local college.
Before moving to the Community Services Division, she worked as a jailer and then as a crime scene technician.
Now, part of her job is to visit homes of people who want police advice on how to make their homes more secure. She’ll point out bushes homeowners might want to trim so burglars can’t hide in them and suggest places where they might place motion-triggered lights.
“Since I have experience in the crime scene unit, I can see how a thief can get in,” she says.
After Artizada’s presentation is finished, Ryan thanks her and tells the seniors that there is some business to attend to. Should these lunchtime lectures continue? Or would it be better just to have Artizada set up at a table in the hall, as she does on months when she doesn’t give a presentation? Would that be more productive?
Ryan proposes a vote. Those who want the lunchtime addresses to continue, hands up.
About 40 arms rise.
Those who would prefer that they be discontinued?
Perhaps five votes.
Artizada, who was busy circulating around the tables, answering questions, misses the results of the vote. When she makes her way back around to Brady, she asks how it went.
“Aha!” she says.