Providing service and protection to 104.2 sq. mi. of territory in the city of San Diego, the San Diego Police Department’s Northeastern Division covers the largest land area and population of the city’s 10 divisions.

With 106 uniformed officers – plus administrative employees and more than 100 volunteers – the division covers not only Rancho Penasquitos, but also Carmel Mountain, Miramar, Miramar Ranch North, Mira Mesa, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Encantada, Rancho Penasquitos, Sabre Springs and Scripps Ranch.

On behalf of Capt. Christopher Ball, Northeastern Division Community Relations Officer Susan Steffen, a 21-year department veteran, answer questions from 92129 Magazine about the Rancho Penasquitos substation, crimes in the PQ area, and other intriguing aspects of the department.

Q&A with Susan Steffen

San Diego Police Department Northeastern Division Community Relations Officer (on behalf of Captain Christopher Ball)

92129 Question: What is the official name of the San Diego Police station in Rancho Penasquitos?
SDPD: The official name is the San Diego Police Department Northeastern Division substation.

92129 Question: When was the PQ station opened?
SDPD: Northeastern Division substation was built in 1988.  The first captain assigned at the area command was Capt. J. Schawlback.

[pullquote_left]‘My goal is to spend time talking with the community, my staff and the other officers as to what the existing challenges may be – and then tackle those specific issues.  If the community believes a problem is XYZ and I come in thinking it is ABC, we have wasted valuable time.’[/pullquote_left]

92129 Question: What are the specifics of the San Diego Police station in Rancho Penasquitos?
SDPD: Northeastern Division currently has 73 Patrol Officers, six Reserve Officers, 12 Sergeants, seven Detectives, three Juvenile Service Officers, one Front Counter Officer, one Community Relations Officer, two Lieutenants and one Captain.   Non-sworn personnel include one Administration Supervisor, one Property Room clerk, four Garage Maintenance personnel and one Psychiatric Emergency Response Team Clinician.  We also have volunteers at Northeastern, including three R.S.V.P. Administrators and 96 R.S.V.P. volunteers. We also have five V.I.P.’s who volunteer their time at Northeastern.

92129 Question: What area does the station service?
SDPD: The Northeastern Division, located at 13396 Salmon River Road, serves the neighborhoods of Carmel Mountain, Miramar, Miramar Ranch North, Mira Mesa, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Encantada, Rancho Penasquitos, Sabre Springs and Scripps Ranch.

92129 Question: What is the reporting structure at the station?
SDPD: Capt. Christopher Ball oversees 113 employees – including 106 uniformed employees – and 111 volunteers at the Northeastern Division station.  Capt.  Ball falls under the command of Asst. Chief Boyd Long, who reports to San Diego Police Department Chief William Lansdowne.

92129 Question: How do crime statistics at the station compare to other parts of the city of San Diego?
SDPD: Northeastern Division has the largest square miles devoted to one substation, at 104.2 sq. mi.  The second largest area covered by a single substation is Eastern Division with 44.2 sq. mi.  Our area has the largest population at 227,590 (recorded in 2008), and the largest expected growth of population with an estimate of 265,352 by 2030.  Crime statistics for 2010 show Northeastern Division has the second lowest recorded violent crimes committed, the second lowest assaults, the second lowest domestic violence crimes and second lowest in all calls.  The lowest crime rates in the city of San Diego are in Northwestern Division.

92129 Question: What types of calls are most prevalent for the Rancho Penasquitos station to receive from residents in the area?
SDPD: Property thefts and vandalism reports from vehicles.  The most often property taken from a vehicle is a GPS monitor affixed to the front interior windshield.  The second and third most prevalent are cell phones and MP3 players left inside of unattended vehicles.   Here’s good advice for local residents:  Don’t be the next victim; take and/or secure all your property with you when you leave your car – even if you park in front of your own residence or driveway.

92129 Question: What is the best advice for residents in the area serviced by the station to protect themselves and their property from crime?
SDPD: Know your neighbors and report suspicious activity to the non-emergency police dispatch line at 619-531-2000.  Join Neighborhood Watch and learn helpful ways to keep your community safe and “target free”.  Lock your windows and doors to your home and cars.  Do not leave valuables inside of your vehicles.

92129 Question: What special programs and outreach does the station provide schools in the coverage area?
SDPD: The Northeastern Division Juvenile Service Team (JST) consists of three uniformed officers and one detective.  They are responsible for 40 schools within the division:  Six high schools, six middle schools and 28 elementary schools.  Two of the uniformed officers are responsible for training, running and monitoring 21 School Safety Patrols (SSP) at the elementary schools.  One of the uniformed officers is responsible for the secondary schools.  JST responds to call for service involving crimes committed on school campus or to assist school staff with other problems that may arise.
The SSP program is run at the elementary schools and ensures that children and adults get to and from school in a safe manner.  The officers meet with the safety patrol once a week to check the events of the previous week and to update any new training or events.  The officers also monitor the safety patrol and traffic around the school before and after school as much as possible.
The detective investigates all reports or arrests involving juveniles within the division.  He reads the report, conducts any follow up if needed and then has to make a decision to either send the arrest to the Juvenile District Attorney’s Office for prosecution or send the juvenile to a diversion program.  The Diversion program is for first time juvenile offenders who are willing to participate and whose parents agree to the participation.  Diversion is run by harmonium, a community based organization in Mira Mesa.  Juveniles who agree to participate in the Diversion program they are required to write a 500-word essay explaining why what they did was wrong and how it affects them, their family and their community.  They will meet with a Diversion administrator who will formulate a curriculum specific to them and the crime they were arrested for — which could include counseling, community service or a variety of other programs.  Upon successful completion of the Diversion program their arrest will be cleared and no prosecution will occur.  If the juvenile is not successful in completion of the Diversion program then their case will be sent to the Juvenile district Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

92129 Question: What is unique about the Rancho Penasquitos station, compared to the other San Diego police stations?
SDPD: Northeastern Division has the largest square mileage of all the 10 San Diego Police Department divisions.  It is not unusual for a patrol officer to put 100 miles on a police car during a single 10-hour shift.

92129 Question: What are the two or three biggest challenges for the staff at the Rancho Penasquitos station?
SDPD: With such a large area to cover, response time is a major issue.  We’ve divided our patrol staff into two sections.  Officers assigned to the north end of the command stay in their area as much as possible.  Officers assigned to the south end of the command are also responsible to cover their area as much as possible.
Although Northeastern does not have the issues with nightclubs and beach crowds like Central, Northern and Western divisions, we do have large industrial areas and residential neighborhoods.  We have anything from Miramar special events to our San Diego Zoo Safari Park included in our area.
Northeastern also has three City Council members within this district:  Councilmember Sherri Lightner, Councilmember Carl DeMaio and Councilmember Marti Emerald.  District 3 Chairwoman Pam Slater-Price and State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher also represent the area of Northeastern Division.

92129 Question: What types of additional programs are provided by personnel at the station?
SDPD: As the Community Relations Officer of Northeastern Division, I can assist our Rancho Penasquitos residents in starting and hosting a Neighborhood Watch Program.  I witnessed an increase of interest in the program and have seen the difference it makes!  Anyone wanting more information on how your community can be the “Eyes and Ears” of the police department, please e-mail me at:  I will be happy to answer all questions and get you started.

92129 Question: Does the station need volunteer assistance from the local residents?
SDPD: We are always looking for volunteers in a variety of areas within SDPD.  Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol volunteers (R.S.V.P.s) are looking for those seniors 50 years-plus to assist in vacation house checks, YANA checks, patrols, administration duties, and everything in between!  If you are interested in becoming an R.S.V.P. or a VIP volunteer, please call Volunteer Services at 619-446-1010 for more information.

92129 Question: How can local residents get more information on the San Diego Police Department or the Northeastern Division?
SDPD: For more information on police recruiting, monthly crime statistics, safety concerns or citizen online reporting, residents can visit the San Diego Police Department’s website at  If you are interested in starting a neighborhood watch for your community, feel free to contact me at for more information or to schedule a date and to get started.


Further Reading


[toggle_box title=”Did You Know?” width=”500″]Did You Know?
In 1850, the San Diego City Council decided to build a town jail.  Not only did the $5,000 construction cost bankrupt the city, four hours after the first prisoner was incarcerated he dug his way through the wall with a pocket knife and escaped.

Did You Know?
The first San Diego police uniform (circa 1889) consisted of derby hats, coats with high collars and badges with seven-point stars.  Chief Joseph Coyne was paid $125 a month, his officers $100 a month; and they worked 12-hour days, seven days a week.

Did You Know?
In 1889, San Diego mounted patrolmen furnished their own horses, but did receive an extra $100 a month for feed and care of their animals.  The modern mounted patrol began in 1934 in Balboa Park.  It was abolished in 1948, but was re-established in 1983 and remains active today.

Did You Know?
Residents in the Northeastern Division of the San Diego Police Dept. interested in creating a Neighborhood Watch program, joining R.S.V.P. or seeking information on other community/police issues may email Community Relations Officer Susan Steffen at[/toggle_box] [toggle_box title=”San Diego Police Department’s History” width=”500″]

Prior to 1889, law enforcement in San Diego was handled by city marshals and constables.  Between 1845 and 1850, the town was under military control.  In 1850, the California State Senate drew up a charter providing for a five-man city council assisted by a marshal, an attorney, an assessor and a treasurer.  The voters chose Agostin Haraszthy as both sheriff and marshal.
The frontier lawman was patrolman, detective, criminologist, jailor, process server, clerk and executioner.  His first requirement was raw courage.  He depended upon the gun on his hip to back up his orders.  His first interest was in keeping alive and bringing the culprit to justice, dead or alive.
In 1850, the council decided to build a town jail. Two bids were received, one from the Israel brothers for $3,000 and the other from Haraszthy for $5,000. Because Haraszthy’s father was president of the council, Haraszthy got the contract –bankrupting the city.  Four hours after the first prisoner was incarcerated, he dug his way through the wall with a pocket knife.
The city eventually purchased a cage and put its first escape-proof jail in the Old Town Plaza.  In 1871, the jail was moved to the location of the present county courthouse at Front and C Streets in new San Diego.
The metropolitan San Diego Police Department was established May 16, 1889. On June 1 of that year, Joseph Coyne, the city marshal, was appointed the first chief of police.
The first police uniform consisted of derby hats, coats with high collars and badges with seven-point stars.  Chief Coyne was paid $125 a month, his officers $100 a month; and they worked 12-hour days, seven days a week.  In 1895 shifts were reduced to eight hours – but salaries also dropped by $25 a month.  Mounted patrolmen furnished their own horses, but did receive $100 a month for feed and care of their animals.  The modern mounted patrol began in 1934 in Balboa Park.  It was abolished in 1948, but was re-established in 1983 and remains active today.
Among other milestones:

  • Harry Vandeberg was the first detective (1907)
  • W. E. Hill was the department’s first motorcycle officer (1909)
  • The first traffic signal was installed around 1920 at Fifth Avenue and Broadway (it was manually controlled by an officer who stood in the center of the intersection)
  • Patrol cars got one-way radios in 1932, and two-way radios four years later
  • The crime lab was established in 1939
  • The first police headquarters was in City Hall at Fifth Avenue and G Street.  Several moves later, the department relocated at Dead Man’s Point, named because of its use as a burial place for sailors and marines during the charting and surveying of San Diego Bay. The department remained there – at 801 West Market Street – until 1987, when it moved into its current seven-story headquarters building at 1401 Broadway.



[toggle_box title=”San Diego Police Department’s Mission Statement” width=”500″]


We are committed to working together, within the Department, in a problem solving partnership with communities, government agencies, private groups and individuals to fight crime and improve the quality of life for the people of San Diego.


The principles upon which we base our policing are:

Human Life – The protection of human life is our highest priority.

Ethics – We will demonstrate integrity and honor in all our actions.

Crime Fighting – Our efforts to address neighborhood problems will be based on a Partnership with the community.

Valuing People – We will treat each other with dignity and respect, protecting the rights and well-being of all individuals.

Loyalty – We will be loyal to the community, to the department and its members, and to the standards of our profession.

Open Communication – We will listen to one another’s opinions and concerns.

Fairness – Our decisions will be based on common sense, and will be balanced, moral, legal, and without personal favoritism.

Diversity – We appreciate one another’s differences and recognize that our unique skills, knowledge, abilities and backgrounds bring strength and caring to our organization.


Our mission is to maintain peace and order by providing the highest quality police services in response to community needs by:
Apprehending Criminals
Developing Partnerships
Respecting Individuals

[/toggle_box] [toggle_box title=”Police Chiefs of San Diego, 1889-2011″ width=”500″]Coyne, Joseph        05/16/1889 – 05/26/1891
Crawford, William H.    05/27/1891 – 07/27/1891
Pringle, W. H.        07/28/1891 – 08/27/1891
Brenning, Jacob        08/28/1891 – 05/09/1897
Russell, James        05/10/1897 – 05/04/1899
Bushyhead, E. W.        05/05/1899 – 05/31/1903
Thomas, Albert A.        06/01/1903 – 06/16/1907
Moulton, George W.        06/17/1907 – 09/03/1907
Neely, William T.        09/04/1907 – 04/30/1909
Wilson, J. Keno        05/03/1909 – 01/10/1917
Steer, Joseph        01/11/1917 – 05/04/1917
…Patrick, James (acting)    05/05/1917 – 10/09/1917
McMullen, S.P.        10/10/1917 – 04/08/1919
Patrick, James        04/09/1919 – 05/31/1927
Doran, Joseph W.        06/01/1927 – 05/12/1929
Hill, ArthurR.        05/13/1929 – 05/03/1931
Benbough, Percy J.        05/04/1931 – 08/03/1931
Scott, Harry H.        08/26/1931 – 06/11/1932
Peterson, John T.        06/12/1932 – 07/31/1932
Newsom, Robert P.        08/01/1932 – 06/04/1933
Raymond, Harry J.        06/05/1933 – 09/01/1933
Peterson, John T.        09/02/1933 – 09/06/1934
Sears, George M.        09/07/1934 – 04/27/1939
…Kelly, Harry J. (acting)    04/28/1939 – 07/18/1939
Peterson, John T.        07/19/1939 – 03/20/1940
Peterson, Clifford E.        03/21/1940 – 10/15/1947
Jansen, A. Elmer        10/16/1947 – 01/07/1962
Sharp, Wesley S.        01/08/1962 – 01/03/1968
Roed, O. Jimmy        01/04/1968 – 03/11/1971
Hoobler, Ray L.        03/11/1971 – 09/09/1975
…Kolender, W. B. (acting)    09/10/1975 – 02/13/1976
Kolender, W. B.        02/13/1976 – 07/29/1988
…Burgreen, Robert (acting)       07/30/1988 – 09/18/1988
Burgreen, Robert        09/19/1988 – 05/17/1993
Sanders, Jerry        05/17/1993 – 04/16/1999
…Enerson, Keith (acting)    04/17/1999 – 04/26/1999
Bejarano, David        04/26/1999 – 04/25/2003
…Welter, John (acting)    04/25/2003 – 08/04/2003
Lansdowne, William        08/04/2003 – present[/toggle_box]