Years before last’s month tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., LAPD Detective Joe Preciado was paying courtesy security visits to his elementary school alma mater, St. Didacus in Sylmar.“He’s been here for a while,” said second grader Josiah Unkrich, as he came over to say hello to Preciado on the windy playground last Thursday morning before school. “I like seeing him here so he can make sure that everyone is safe.”“I started coming here shortly after being assigned to the Mission Division in 2007,” said Preciado, division supervisor for the gang unit. “We work in partnership with the community to reduce the fear of crime.” Following the Newtown Dec. 14 shooting, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced that LAPD uniformed officers would provide additional patrols to local elementary schools that day and continue the increased patrols when students returned from the holiday break. Preciado volunteered to be the main officer providing patrol support visits to St. Didacus. “To accomplish this, at least out of the Mission Division, detectives who normally wear ‘soft clothes’ (civilian clothing) threw on the uniform and provided that extra security for this ‘Operation Embrace’ to be successful,” said Preciado. All 30 schools (including public, private and Catholic) in the Mission Division, he continued, are covered with uniformed personnel who drop in at different times during the school day. Preciado often is present as parents drop their children off for school in the morning or arrives later in the day near dismissal. If his workload prevents him from visiting the school, he sends another patrol officer.“It’s nice for the parents that have obviously been exposed to the tragic situation in Newtown that the police department is responding by providing that uniformed security for their children at their Catholic private school,” said Preciado. “They are not forgotten just because their children are attending a private school.”He says he feels honored to come back to his childhood school and provide a sense of security for the families. “I definitely want to give back to the community that provided my education,” said Preciado.“I feel very good about having Officer Joe here,” said Frank Cantu, St. Didacus principal who taught Preciado in sixth grade and hired him years later as the school’s P.E. coach before his former student attended the Police Academy, among six in St. Didacus’ class of ’79 who joined law enforcement.“Being a Catholic school, it was one of my concerns that we weren’t going to get the daily visits that we had heard about after what unfortunately had occurred on the East Coast,” said Cantu. “Obviously, we were very comforted when we found out that Detective Preciado had requested to volunteer at St. Didacus, and he showed up the first day back to school on Jan. 7.”Having a connection with Preciado helps not only with increased security but increased information about what’s going on in the community. “We’re in a pocket right here where we’ve got a public junior high, a public high school and a public elementary and it’s not uncommon on a daily basis, much like in L.A., to see helicopters flying around here,” said Cantu.“It’s tough for us sometimes to find out what’s going on [like] do we need to do a lock-down, because we never get a phone call, so we call Joe and he fills us in pretty quick,” said Cantu.Teachers appreciate Preciado’s presence as well. “Besides educating [the students], our first job is always to keep them safe,” said Krishana Gonzales, St. Didacus’ junior high social studies teacher. “Anything to facilitate that is always beneficial. I think just having Detective Preciado here adds a sense of security, if you can give that to the kids and the parents, that’s half the battle.”Catholic schools within the jurisdiction of the City of Los Angeles who would like to have similar patrols may request that an officer be assigned to their school by contacting their local police division office, listed on Catholic schools in L.A. County outside of LAPD’s jurisdiction may call their local L.A. Sheriff’s Department station to ask for similar routine patrol support. —January 25, 2013{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0125/didacus/{/gallery}