The Laguna Beach City Council wants to improve the police presence in town.
Mayor Kelly Boyd and Councilman Steven Dicterow, who raised the issue in June, were appointed at the Aug. 6 council meeting to work as a council subcommittee to discuss "enhanced police presence, in addition to improvements already underway." Downtown is of particular concern.
"We have made progress," said Dicterow, who during his election campaign pushed for additional police. "We need to continue."
Programs recently implemented include:
•Two retired police officers were assigned to focus on criminal activity at the bus depot and make frequent contact with businesses to better understand concerns.
•Officer Zack Martinez was assigned to patrol the downtown for at least 20 hours a week during the afternoon and to interact with the business community.
•The Bicycle Patrol will be downtown during peak periods like summer for several days a week.
•A police management team on foot or in vehicles is in the downtown on a regular basis to help identify problems.
•Civilian enforcement staff has been augmented during festival season to patrol Main Beach, downtown and the bus depot.
•At least one sworn police officer is in the downtown area for a large portion of time between 10 a.m. and 8:30 p.m., seven days a week, Police Chief Paul Workman reported.
But Police Employee Assn. President Larry Bammer said that's not enough. He said problems don't occur just during the daylight hours and the business community has reported an 11% decrease in safety after dark.
Results of a public safety survey taken by residents last year show virtually no increase in daytime neighborhood or downtown safety between 2007 and 2012. The survey showed a 2% decrease in safety after dark downtown and a 5% decrease in safety in neighborhoods after dark during those years.
Bammer said larcenies, fraud and auto theft have jumped since January and show a marked increase over the same time period in 2012.
The real problem is lack of personnel, he said.
"When community-based and tourist-based policing started in 2000, we had 50 officers; now we have 47, but two in training," Bammer said. "We need additional officers."
Workman told the council that the department started getting questions about six months ago about whether programs should be implemented to deal with the homeless.
"But homelessness is not against the law," Workman said.
Nor was it the subject of the agenda item, Dicterow said.
"We need to reallocate officers and if that doesn't work, we need to find resources," Dicterow said.
Resources translate into money, including more money for additional police officers or social services.
"We are not making changes," said Councilwoman Toni Iseman. "I would like to see more hours for a social worker and hiring more officers.
"We need to find the money so we can see more officers on the street."