Council hears report on police performance in Del Mar

By Kristina Houck

A little more than six months after the Del Mar City Council decided to try to improve the services the city receives from the county rather than establish its own police department, the city’s new sheriff’s captain shared what changes have been made during the June 16 council meeting.

Theresa Adams-Hydar joined the Encinitas station in April. She oversees the day-to-day operations of the station, which covers Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas and neighboring communities.

Her appointment came just months after the council in November heard a report prepared by Ralph Andersen & Associates that compared the city’s law enforcement costs to other cities and evaluated other law enforcement alternatives, such as creating a standalone department. At that time, the council directed staff to implement a performance plan and return in six months with an update.

“Perception, to me, is very important,” Adams-Hydar said. “It’s my job to take perception and reality, and blend them together, get a working project, and meet some of these goals.”

Del Mar currently 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.

Since implementing a performance plan, Adams-Hydar said the department has worked to increase visibility and connectivity in the community. The city’s deputy and senior volunteers have increased foot patrols in downtown Del Mar and by the beach, she said. Adams-Hydar has held “Coffee with the Captain” events to meet with residents.

Assistant City Manager Mark Delin explained the city’s seals have been added to sheriff’s vehicles used in Del Mar. The city has also obtained the department’s 2013 response data and has increased law enforcement presence on Del Mar’s website.

In addition, the sheriff’s department has worked closely with the city’s other public safety departments, holding monthly safety coordination meetings to work together to solve enforcement issues in the community, Delin said. The department has also offered co-training opportunities for the park ranger and community services staff.

“We’re working to resolve some issues,” said Councilman Don Mosier. “This is going to be an ongoing process I think we need to follow closely.”

“I think the change in leadership has been a boom for this discussion,” added Councilwoman Sherryl Parks. “In only two and a half months, I’ve seen some creative solutions.”

Still, council members said they would like to see even more improvements.

According to Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) data, there were 2,366 calls for police service in 2013. Of these, 15 were priority one calls (serious accident, airplane crash, SWAT alert, blood run or a disaster), 893 were priority two calls (homicide, kidnapping, rape, armed robbery, residential burglary, grand theft, among others), 887 were priority three calls (minor accident, reckless driving, DUI, among others) and 571 were priority four calls (loud parties, prowlers, fires, assaults, burglaries, among others). The average response time was 11.9 minutes for priority one calls, 9.5 minutes for priority two calls, 13.7 minutes for priority three calls and 41.9 minutes for priority four calls, according to the data.

Adams-Hydar, who noted all of Del Mar’s priority one calls were accidents, compared Del Mar’s response times to Lemon Grove, Poway and Santee, other cities under contract with the sheriff’s department. In 2013, the response times were 11.7 minutes in Lemon Grove, 10 minutes in Poway and 9.8 minutes in Santee for priority two calls.

Councilman Terry Sinnott said he appreciates all the work that’s being done, but he would like response times reduced across all categories, particularly priority three and four calls.

The department also issued a survey to gather feedback from the public, in which 52 residents participated. Respondents said they are concerned about traffic, speeding and property crimes in the community. When asked how satisfied they are with the department’s services, on a scale from one to five, only 37.2 percent of respondents answered “one” for “very satisfied.” Almost 33 percent selected the next highest number.

“I think security and clean water and sanity conditions, you’ve got to be very satisfied, not just satisfied,” said Deputy Mayor Al Corti.

“I appreciate the captain coming and spending some time … working with our citizens and hearing their concerns, and working with our staff and trying to figure out how they might be able to improve it,” he added. “I assume and hope it will get better, but I’m not convinced that our community can be serviced through just the contractual services through the sheriff’s department.”

Going forward, city staff plans to continue to work with the sheriff’s department to effectively integrate safety staff with the department and all other city departments, Delin said. In addition, staff also wants to determine how to best utilize the detective’s time.

Staff will return to council early 2015 when 2014 CAD data is available for another performance update.