2008 was busy year for patrol

Report shows crime increased last year in RSF

Rancho Santa Fe Patrol officers often ride the Ranch heavily armed - with alfalfa pellets.

The pellets are used to wrangle horses on the loose, which happens quite often, Chief Matt Wellhouser said. In fact, they have two repeat equine offenders, he added. But, horses are just some of the many culprits the patrol faced in 2008.

Beyond the equine challenges, a recent report showed that crimes in the Ranch increased since 2007, despite the fact that there was a 9 percent decrease in calls in 2008.

The report lists 3,344 calls, 89,000 miles driven and more than 30,000 security checks made by the patrol. Their average response time to a call was five minutes and 34 seconds, Wellhouser said.

The biggest increase was in commercial burglaries: 17 were reported in 2008 compared to 9 in 2007. There was a total of 30 burglaries in 2008, up from 24 in 2007.

Of the 30 burglaries, seven were residential and six were vehicle thefts.

“They are very hard to nail down because they’re very random,” Wellhouser said of the burglaries.

He said the patrol is addressing the issue by adjusting shift times and working with the Encinitas Sheriff’s Department.

The more serious crimes were two robberies, a bank robbery at the Bank of America in December and an attempted homicide on Via de Santa Fe in May, a case that is currently awaiting trial.

While there is a slight boost in crime in Rancho Santa Fe, the crime rate is still very low when compared to similar sized population areas, Wellhouser said.

Rancho Santa Fe Association Board member Bill Beckman said having the patrol is similar to having a really good next door neighbor and definitely a member of the community. He added that having the patrol makes the Ranch feels safe and secure. He added that officers are always professional and courteous when they go about their business.

Traffic woes

Wellhouser said the majority of complaints are traffic-related.

Traffic collisions dropped by 19 percent from last year and Wellhouser attributes this to the increased CHP presence in the Ranch.

Speeding remains the number one cause of accidents, Wellhouser said. In 2008, 43 accidents were attributed to excessive speed.

Montevideo at Camino del Norte was named as a problem spot by Association vice president Tim Sullivan. Because it’s one of the few straight roads in Rancho Santa Fe people tend to speed there, he said.

“Speeds on a weekly basis are excessive,” Sullivan said, estimating drivers hit between 70 and 80 miles per hour there. “It’s very dangerous if you’re walking or riding.”

Wellhouser said he is aware of the problem and said it’s on the CHP’s “hit list” for speeding ticket enforcement as well as another problematic intersection at La Noria and La Bajada.