Using Communications As A Community Service
You may not know it, but there is always someone watching out for you. Members of a nonprofit group of citizens band radio enthusiasts called Crest Communications keep an eye on the roads and an ear to the radio 24-hours a day. They are on the lookout for people who need help throughout Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties — and beyond. “We have no boundaries,” said Ed Greany, of Corona, who is president of the group. “We will reach out and touch someone no matter where they are.” Crest is the name of the local team and Communications stands for Radio Emergency Associated Communications Team, a national organization.
The group routinely monitors traffic for law enforcement agencies, helps with community events and, every so often, lends a big hand to police. That’s what happened on Dec. 15, when some members helped capture three men suspected in the beating of a Moreno Valley man in a road rage incident on North Main Street in Corona. The victim, 30-year-old Jaime Chavez, was knocked under the wheels of a gravel truck and run over.
“Those guys were really the eyes and ears of the Police Department that day,” said Corona police spokesman Sgt. Eddie Garcia. Three men, later identified as Richard Snyder, 28, Patrick Bastiaans, 33, and George Marre, 33, all of Riverside, are awaiting trial on charges of attempted murder and assault. Crest Communications members had spotted three men fleeing and contacted the Corona Police Department.
Despite the praise of the Corona police, Crest Communications members say their actions were only business as usual and only one aspect of what the group does to help the community. The group is headquartered in Corona and Norco but members live throughout Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties. It is the largest Communications group in the country, with 144 members. The second largest is in Dallas County, Texas.
As individuals, Crest Communications members aren’t easy to define, Greany said. Membership ranges in age from 17 to 70 and includes plumbers, phlebotomists and a retired army general. “Basically, we are trying to find an excuse to play with our radios and be of service to our neighbors,” he said. Communications members say they are often confused with other radio groups such as ham radio operators.
“Some of what we do is similar but (ham radio) is something you do for recreation — we are a service organization,” said Crest Communications member Bob Leef, 70, of Orange. The history of the group dates to the early 1960s when citizens band radios were a rarity and communication between two vehicles was almost nonexistent. The CB signal, a middle frequency FM, was severely limited by topography, making it of little use to travelers until technology started catching up.
It happened in the 1970s, when truckers embraced the radio as a means of communicating with each other. The general public followed and a CB radio craze swept the nation. Greany notes that Communications was there before TV shows like “BJ and the Bear,” which was about a trucker and his chimpanzee who traveled the country with a CB radio. In the late 1970s, the CB Class D frequency lost favor with the introduction of the Class A UHF (Ultra High Frequency) channel. It was called GMRS for General Mobile Radio Service, and most CB enthusiasts use it today. It generally provides a clearer, stronger signal not affected by topography.
With the UHF channel, CB groups such as Communications started specializing in monitoring traffic and relaying the information to law enforcement and safety organizations. The Corona/Norco Communications group was founded in 1977.
In the early 1990s, the members decided to change the name to Crest Communications since membership had grown outside of those cities’ limits and it was easier to distinguish on the radio.
A constant presence, the group did its work for the community daily, and almost unnoticed, until Dec. 15. Late for work that morning, Greany turned on the police scanner in his truck. “I heard this commotion,” he said. “Everyone was going crazy.” The commotion was police searching for the three men who had just attacked Chavez. According to police, the trio had left the scene going east on Grand Boulevard and apparently turned back west on Sixth Street. The initial call had patrol officers looking for them heading east from the scene.
Greany heard the description of the vehicle broadcast and, when he reached Main Street, he looked to his right and saw a truck matching that description stopped next to him at the light. “I only heard the last three digits of the license plate, but when they pulled ahead of me I read the 336” of the plate, he said. “There was my full house.”
The rest of the story came straight out of the Crest Communications training. Greany radioed another member on the CB and relayed the information on the truck. That member, G.P. Warren, then called the Corona Police Department with the information.
Warren, of Lake Matthew’s, regularly monitors his radio and makes the phone calls for the group. “I’m just a cog in the machine,” he said of his role.
Corona police Detective Anthony Anderson, who was driving to work at the time of the incident, was on Sixth Street when the dispatcher called in the new information. He got on the freeway, which was moving slowly because of the morning commuter traffic, and began looking for the truck. Anderson entered the Fastrack toll lanes and was able to speed up to about 75 mph while the main traffic was still at a crawl.
He passed the suspects, pulled across the plastic dividers, and worked his way to the right side of the road.
“I waited for them to pass me, then activated my lights and sirens and pulled them over,” Anderson said.
Still on his commute, Greany thought the three had gotten away when Anderson called in the arrest on the scanner. “That guy (Anderson) really popped out of nowhere,” Greany said. “He was a guardian angel.”
Normally, things aren’t so dramatic. Members call in traffic problems and accidents to a regional radio station network to help commuters through the morning snarl.
The group also works with the Corona Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department to help out with events. Members assist police with crowd control and security for events such as the Run for the Crown run each May and the Fourth of July fireworks show at Corona High School.
“The group has been working with the city since 1991 on the events,” said Rick Thompson, recreation supervisor for the Corona parks department. The Crest Communications members provide communications for the events as well as security and directing traffic. “There aren’t a lot of organizations out there that have that kind of technical training to do these things,” Thompson said.