New sheriff's captain in town

Settling into his new post at the helm of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station, Capt. Tim Peters said he is looking to build upon the community support base left by his predecessor and take a proactive stance in addressing crime in the community.

A 32-year department veteran, Peters replaces Capt. Ralph Martin, recently promoted Region II commander.

Crime hit a seven-year low in the city of La Cañada Flintridge in 2003, the fourth year under Martin's watch, and Peters says he a subscriber to the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" management philosophy. But that doesn't mean he's not keeping his eyes open, he said.

"My goal for the community is to be aware and on top of things so that we're not surprised by anything and nothing gets out of hand," the former Region I Headquarters lieutenant said. "The buck stops on my desk. I'm the person who has to be able to say we've got this problem and that problem and determine the resources for that."

Cuts in the sheriff's department's budget could strain those resources.

According to Los Angeles County officials, the department is facing a $34.8 million reduction to absorb ongoing program costs, in addition to the loss of $2 million and 28 positions as result of a decrease in state grant funds. Reductions that would offset the loss have not yet been identified, which obfuscates the future, Peters said.

"The future is like looking into a darkened room with a piece of smoked glass in front of you?It's just hazy."

If cuts do come down on the station's budget, supervision duties would likely be expanded, a cost-cutting measure that gives the station's lieutenants and sergeants larger spans of control, Peters said. Programs that provide the least impact on crime fighting are next, followed by personnel.

The primary impact of budget cuts last year was to cut supervision, Peters said.

"In a large part, you'd never see a change in the operations."

Peters, who has a background in crime analysis, said crime figures can be key in identifying problems. While the numbers don't allow authorities to predict that a crime is going to happen, they do give a historical sense of what is going on, Peters said.

"Often if a person is looking for a crime of opportunity, if they've been successful in an area, they'll go right back to that area, and they'll start leaving clues-time and day of the week?They leave a pattern that you can discover, but you have to sit down and put all that stuff into [a database]," he said.

Identifying specific crime problems, such as the recent rise in the number of vehicle burglaries, goes hand in hand with preventing them from occurring, he said.

"Vehicle burglaries rise and fall based upon opportunity?They really are opportunity crimes, and in a large part can be prevented if we can harden that target to a point that will eliminate a lot of the temptation that goes along with that."

Most vehicle burglary arrests in recent months have involved suspects from out of the area, and Peters said he gets a sense that criminals from other cities seek out this area to commit crimes.

"They target this area, so what we need to do is to harden the target but be vigilant in our investigations."

Through the crime prevention tips included in the station's weekly crime log and notices in local papers, Detective Bureau Sgt. Victor Ibarra said that can be done.

While serving as a lieutenant at the Santa Clarita Sheriff's Station, Peters worked with Mike Quinn, a former captain of the Crescenta Valley station, and learned about the area.

"When I was working with [Quinn] I got a sense of what a great community this was, and a lot of the things he brought with him were things that he started developing here," which include fostering community support, building up a good staff and making sure all personnel feel safe about their job, Peters said.

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