Bicyclists and motorists who violate traffic laws are top concern raised at ‘Coffee With the Sheriff’ event in Del Mar

More than a dozen Del Mar residents gathered Sept. 23 at Powerhouse Community Center to share their concerns with sheriff’s Capt. Theresa Adams-Hydar and a panel of other officers during Coffee With the Sheriff, an hourlong question-and-answer session.

Although several topics were addressed — from body cameras for officers to red-light tickets for drivers — community members were mainly concerned about bicyclists and motorists who violate traffic laws. Attendees urged police to better enforce traffic laws, but because of limited resources, officers said they are doing the best they can.

“I’d love to be able to put an echelon of deputies down to do the bicycle enforcement,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Tomaiko. “I’d love to be able to put cars spaced out at the stop signs and red lights to catch the bicycle violators — I really would. With that being said, we can address it the best we possibly can with what we have to work with.”

One resident asked police to park patrol cars strategically so cyclists would see them and stop at traffic signals and stop signs. To do that, Adams-Hydar said the station would need to use traffic officers from Encinitas and Solana Beach. All the units, including Del Mar’s traffic officer, would then need to do the same for Encinitas and Solana Beach.

“We would do it in each city, so across the board it would be very equitable,” Adams-Hydar said. “It would have the same punch, no matter what, in each city, and it would send a message throughout the coast.”

Another resident encouraged officers to issue more citations to cyclists.

“We will be more than happy to remind them it’s their responsibility to stop,” Tomaiko said.

After hearing complaints about speeding motorists, Adams-Hydar said she could switch up the schedule for Del Mar’s traffic deputy, but that might result in no one patrolling the city streets at other peak times. Now, at the request of city officials, the city’s only traffic officer surveys the streets Wednesday through Saturday when bars close and intoxicated people could get behind the wheel, she said.

“I don’t have a traffic deputy during the morning hours to enforce that,” Adams-Hydar said. “I have a patrol deputy, but he’s going to radio calls, disturbances and covering his partner in Solana Beach.”

Del Mar has contracted with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement services since its inception. The city spends about $1.78 million a year on its contract with the department, which includes one 24/7 patrol deputy, a full-time traffic deputy, a full-time detective and other support services.

It would cost the city about $250,000 annually to add a full-time traffic deputy. Adams-Hydar suggested hiring a temporary deputy without “all the overhead,” such as benefits, for three to six months to determine how much impact an additional officer would have on traffic violations.

City officials said it would cost about $150,000 for a temporary deputy during the trial period.

“I think that would be a good idea for you guys to evaluate that and look at all your options,” she said.

In response to the concerns raised, Adams-Hydar thanked community members for their feedback and said decisions, such as changing the traffic deputy’s schedule, would be made with input from residents and city staff.

“We hear what you’re saying,” she said. “We understand it; we get it. It’s just a matter of the resources we have, using them smartly and efficiently, and hitting all over.”

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