Police talk motels, prostitution, homelessness at town-hall meeting


SANTA ANA — Crime statistics, the homeless being “dumped” in town, hoarders, prostitutes and prostitutes’ use of motels — all were up for discussion at Monday night’s town-hall meeting geared for northern Costa Mesa residents.

About 30 attended the informal gathering at the Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa’s Logos Sanctuary off MacArthur Boulevard, near the Santa Ana-Costa Mesa border.

Attendees came from varied neighborhoods north and south of the San Diego (405) Freeway — the Westside, the State Streets, Lower Birds, Wimbledon Village, the Bethel Towers — to ask questions of Costa Mesa Police Department Cpl. Doug Johnson and city CEO Tom Hatch.


Councilwoman Wendy Leece organized the meeting, which was her fifth throughout the city.

“It’s government coming out into the neighborhood to engage the community and answer questions, mainly about public safety,” Leece said.

She said meetings like Monday’s can give voices to neighborhoods that may not have their own homeowners associations. She urged working together to keep communities safe.

“We are kind of our brother’s keeper,” she said. “No man is an island. We need to work together to keep our streets safe.”

Johnson, standing next to a map of Costa Mesa, pointed out neighborhoods and their crime statistics. He said that the city’s northern edge above the 405 gets far fewer police calls than parts south of it. Among the notable statistics — which were gathered from January through this month — were nine garage burglaries, six residential burglaries and 14 vehicle burglaries.

Johnson said most of the vehicle-related crimes happened because someone left a valuable item in plain view and the car was broken into to get it. He urged locking doors and windows.

“The crooks aren’t going to smash the window unless they can look in at 2 in the morning and see that purse, that computer,” Johnson said. “Then they’ll hit [the window] and they’re gone.”

He also said teams of criminals target homes between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. They may enter them if no one answers the door. Once inside, they may try to steal small, concealable items, he said.

When asked about cuts to the Police Department, Johnson said it is determined to keep the same amount of patrols out on the streets but that cuts in other divisions are inevitable. Furthermore, Costa Mesa isn’t alone in that scenario, he said.

“Every city is going through manpower changes,” Johnson said.

Concerning drug use in the city, he said cocaine use is down, heroin is making a comeback, and oxycontin and Vicodin are also common.

Prostitution in and around Costa Mesa’s motels remains a monumental problem, Johnson said.

He estimated there are between 500 and 1,000 prostitution-related website ads for Costa Mesa on a Friday or Saturday night.

“We are trying to do something with them,” Johnson said, “but there’s a lot.”

Hatch said the city is focusing on five key issues: homelessness, including the homeless being “dumped” in town; motels; drug and alcohol facilities such as rehabilitation homes; parolee and sex offenders; and problematic properties.

Hatch said he felt those areas were not targeted in the past with as much organization as they are now.

Among the solutions toward problematic motels is the city’s recent hiring of a code enforcement officer who works 20 hours a week.

“There are a variety of things we can do to hold the motels more accountable, and we’re doing it,” Hatch said.

Twitter: @bradleyzint