After scrapped ideas, including a Del Mar Police Department, city council members on Sept. 17 cautiously moved forward with a multifaceted approach to help make the city safer.
The council approved 3 to 2 — with Council members Terry Sinnott and Dave Druker opposing — to appropriate $135,000 to hire a part-time law enforcement manager and implement a one-year pilot program for a contracted private security patrol, contingent upon the council being able to find funds in the city's budget. That evaluation is scheduled to take place Oct. 1.
For more than seven years, Del Mar has grappled with how to better handle law enforcement in the area. An idea for a city police department was disregarded earlier this year, with the city council requesting more options to be explored, including expanding sheriff services.
City Manager Scott Huth on Sept. 17 said the goal for the program is to decrease response times to priority three and four calls and have a continuous law enforcement presence in the city. He added there have been issues with the city's designated sheriff's deputy being called out of the city to aid other areas.
The law enforcement manager would would work on weekends and nights, when most disturbances tend to occur, at less than 40 hours per week. The hiree would be responsible for supervising public safety staff and working with the sheriff's department.
"This is synonymous with what the sheriff and police departments do," Huth said. "You need to be in the staff to help them and educate them on how to work. There’s clearly supervisor time and a little bit of office time."
Although the council tended to agree that something needed to be done to give the community a stronger public safety presence, some members did express concerns that these options might not be enough or are redundant.
Druker said he didn't see how a law enforcement manager would be any different than the city's existing ranger. He wanted to see a proposed schedule for the manager.
He also said he didn't believe a security team — or "rent-a-cops," as he called them — could handle the city's problems on the beaches, like drinking and drug use.
"There’s a specific problem in North Beach and the downtown area and there needs to be a better presence than rent-a-cops," he said.
He also noted the city's crime rate — 66 crimes in the last six months — and said the city should take more time to figure out a better plan that would better help ease burglaries in the hillside.
"That's 132 crimes in a year, and we're worried?" he asked. "The amount of crime we have is so minuscule."
Sinnott said he was in support of the security firm but questioned if the city was doing enough to have a stronger public safety presence. He agreed with Druker that the city should spend more money for resources from the Sheriff's Department.
"I'm just afraid we're not getting the amount of police enforcement in the city on a regular basis, in the car, walking around, being more responsive,” he said.
Mayor Dwight Worden said that the city has received "significant" notices of nuisance problems in the area and he wants to avoid the city being an "easy mark" for crimes.
He said the city has to work to best employ its resources and delegate duties.
Council member Ellie Haviland said the law enforcement manager should understand all the services the city provides and should have time to manage and not just be out 100 percent of the time.
“I think this has the potential to solve a lot of our problems," said Haviland. "I am skeptical it’s going to solve all our problems.”