Encinitas council still divided over hiring new Sheriff’s deputy
A majority of Encinitas councilmembers on Oct. 28 once again stated that they need more information before deciding whether to hire another full-time Sheriff’s deputy.
During an agenda item on downtown Encinitas issues, Mayor Kristin Gaspar and Councilman Mark Muir revived the call for a new deputy to patrol the area.
“I think we have more than enough information to make an informed decision,” Muir said. He also stated that pulling deputies from other beats to cover downtown could have unintended consequences.
Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear questioned whether another deputy is necessary because various crime stats haven’t jumped over time.
For instance, there were 817 crime reports in Encinitas in 2012, 628 in 2013, 557 in 2014 and 456 so far this year. Arrests have hovered at around 700 in recent years.
“To me, it’s really important that we ask our department heads to live within their budget, unless we do actually see crime going up,” Blakespear said.
An increase in concerns from Encinitas residents and businesses led the Encinitas council in June to focus on homelessness, vagrancy, drug use, long-term parking on public streets and other downtown issues.
Around that time, the council majority tabled consideration of a new deputy and requested a follow-up agenda item on the matter. The initial yearly cost to add a deputy was estimated at $198,677.
Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer at the Oct. 28 meeting said the city has to closely look at the budget impacts.
“You can always add more [deputies] and feel safer, but you’re taking money away from other things to do that,” she said.
Gaspar said the city hasn’t seen an increase in deputies in 12 years, and that this is the first request to increase staffing in her five years on the council. She added it’s unfair to push the issue to the new Sheriff’s captain.
Shaffer, Blakespear and Councilman Tony Kranz voted 3-2 to direct new Sheriff’s Capt. John Maryon to return with a report on current Sheriff’s staffing levels, deputies beats and options for maintaining a two-deputy patrol team focused on downtown Encinitas during the weekend.
Following council direction, the Sheriff’s Department established the patrol team this summer, which cut down on parking and homeless-related problems, according to a staff report.
Former Sheriff’s Capt. Theresa Adams-Hydar said she originally didn’t think the two-deputy team would be possible with current staffing levels, but she was able to form it by moving shifts around and with overtime hours. She said this approach isn’t necessarily sustainable from a long-term budget perspective.
“It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul,” she said.
Adams-Hydar said she’s in favor of hiring a new deputy because crime could spike going forward due in large part to Proposition 47, a 2014 ballot measure that converted some felonies to misdemeanors. For instance, she stated shoplifters are now bolder since the penalties aren’t as severe.
She added another deputy could also help with quality-of-life issues such as noise complaints, which aren’t necessarily reflected in crime stats.
Kranz said he’d like to see regional crime statistics from the agency SANDAG that could justify hiring a deputy. In the past, Kranz has stated that he’s not sure a deputy is the best way to address homelessness and other downtown issues.
“We’re already expending a significant amount of money on our law enforcement,” Kranz said during the meeting. “We just made some changes this summer that had a positive effect downtown. If we’re going to make some permanent changes, some permanent hires…I want to make sure there aren’t some other solutions to address that.”