The Moorpark City Council is gearing for a debate tonight over whether to beef up surveillance of youth gangs by hiring an extra sheriff's deputy.
About $82,500 has been reserved in Moorpark's nearly $2-million law enforcement budget. However, council members are divided over how to spend it.
The Sheriff's Department has maintained that Moorpark has a low crime rate and no gang problem. However, concerns about an increase in vandalism and burglary earlier this year prompted a suggestion from two council members that the city add an officer to the Sheriff's Department special enforcement detail.
The officer's main task would be gang and drug enforcement.
Councilman Paul Lawrason said Tuesday that he is in favor of adding an officer because citizens are aggravated by the vandals who paint graffiti in the city.
Until vandals began spraying graffiti on their property, residents in newer housing tracts in the southern hillsides of Moorpark did not believe that crime was on the increase, he said.
However, Mayor Bernardo Perez said he believes that adding an officer to concentrate on gangs when there are no known gangs in the city is a poor use of the money.
Perez has asked for additional funds for youth activities, rather than stepped-up police enforcement.
"I have no support for the special enforcement detail at this time," Perez said. "Things would have to change drastically for me to consider supporting it."
Moorpark Sheriff's Lt. Rich Rodriguez in a report to the council said officials have three options.
The first option would be to hire a full-time officer for the special enforcement team based in Thousand Oaks. The officer would bolster Moorpark's 15-officer patrol. The special enforcement team covers most of eastern Ventura County, and adding an officer to the team would ensure that Moorpark is assigned a full-time deputy, Rodriguez said.
The two other options would be to hire a community services officer to oversee crime prevention and neighborhood watch programs, or to hire a youth resources officer to handle anti-drug programs in the schools.
All three options would cost the same, Rodriguez said.