Residents in the Las Palmas neighborhood Tuesday showed their thanks to departing Lt. Paul D'Auria, chief of San Clemente Police Services.
The residents met with their children at for a potluck to laud the Orange County Sheriff's lieutenent who they say made big strides in the community to fight crime and connect with residents at times intimidated by authorities.
"We've been lucky in this community," said Edgar Medina of OC Human Relations. "There was a time when [D'Auria] came to the community center than they wanted to touch him to see if he were real--they had never been in contact with the police force. The community is more integrated now and we are growing."
D'Auria also thanked the residents, who presented him with a certificate of recognition.
"Just personally, this has been the most cooperation we've ever had between us and the community in helping to fight crime and create a safe community," the chief said.
Also at the event, the group honored students who had passed the OC Human Relations Skills for Success course.
"At the beginning, I asked, 'how many of you are going to go to college?' and no one raised their hand," said instructor and OC Human Relations community organizer Rose Velasquez. "But by the last session, I asked the same question and everybody raised their hands."
None of the students in the group were failing any classes by the time they finished she said.
"Don't let this stop at this piece of paper," D'Auria told the kids as they received their recognition certificates. "Keep it up and be something. And we need deputy sheriffs, so when you're old enough, apply with us."