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Encinitas tables decision on hiring new Sheriff’s deputy

A majority of councilmembers at the June 10 Encinitas City Council meeting said they need more information before deciding whether to hire another full-time Sheriff’s deputy.

Sheriff’s Captain Theresa Adams-Hydar proposed adding another deputy to patrol local beaches and downtown Encinitas. She said Sheriff’s deputies are responding to more calls, but there hasn’t been an increase in the number of Encinitas deputies in more than a decade.

Adams-Hydar also said that a new deputy would help the Sheriff’s Department proactively solve issues, rather than jumping from call to call.

“I have to be prepared for a worst-case scenario and those extra resources definitely help,” she said.

Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear said before considering additional staffing, she wants to see whether existing Sheriff’s deputies could be redeployed to focus on problem areas.

“I don’t accept the premise that we need to grow,” Blakespear said, adding more stats are needed on where deputies spend their time.

Currently, there are 25.59 patrol deputies (based on full-time hours) assigned to Encinitas. An additional Sheriff’s deputy would cost the city $198,677 this upcoming fiscal year, a figure that includes startup costs. Blakespear said a new deputy would add up over the years.

“That’s a roundabout,” Blakespear said. “That’s paving our streets. That’s a lot of money.”

Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer questioned why this matter only recently came up even though the city has been working on a budget for months. She, too, said further analysis is needed.

The item will return to the council at an undetermined date.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar said the Sheriff’s Department brought the issue of lean staffing to her attention during a recent quarterly safety report. It’s clear the current number of deputies isn’t cutting it, she said.

“I believe fully that the Sheriff’s captain knows how best to manage the resources that she’s given,” Gaspar said. “And so I, as a councilmember, do not want to micromanage how the captain utilizes those resources.”

Gaspar supported a motion from Councilman Mark Muir to hire a new deputy, which failed via a 2-3 vote.

Muir said the increase in downtown issues — complaints over sober-living homes and concerns over Sheriff’s Department response times — warrants a new deputy.

The deputy would work closely with lifeguards, but also focus on downtown Encinitas, as well as coastal Leucadia and Cardiff, Adams-Hydar said.

Councilman Tony Kranz said he’d like more information on how an additional Sheriff’s deputy would improve common downtown complaints: vagrancy and drug use.

A handful of residents expressed support for a new deputy. Bobby Vick, owner of the 7-Eleven on D Street, said he spends quite a bit of time dealing with vagrant-related issues.

“We do not have the resources as business owners or residents to deal with it,” Vick said. “It would be great to have better enforcement downtown.”

But local resident Bob Bonde called for an in-depth analysis of Sheriff’s Department staffing to gauge whether another deputy is necessary. He said the city already spends a hefty chunk of its budget on public safety, and stats show local crime has dropped over time.

To that point, Adams-Hydar said crime could tick up if staffing stays the same. That’s largely because citywide calls for service in 2014 averaged 1,600 a month, and that’s increased to 1,749 a month so far this year.

“So your calls for service are going up and you have the same number of personnel dealing with them,” she said.

In other news, the council unanimously adopted a two-year operating budget and six-year capital improvement budget with little discussion.

Over the last five months, council picked select projects for the capital improvement budget. It includes funding for turf and field lighting at Leo Mullen Sports Park, pedestrian improvements at Paul Ecke-Central Elementary, and design drawings for the Leucadia Streetscape — a plan to revamp the community’s Highway 101 corridor.

As for the two-year operating budget, in this upcoming fiscal year, the city forecasts $63.7 million in general fund revenue and $55.4 million in expenses.


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