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Increased police presence approved by council for Main Beach

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved increased police presence on Main Beach as proposed by Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow and newly elected Councilman Peter Blake. 

Police Chief Laura Farinella gave her support to the proposals outlined in the meeting agenda to combat unwelcome activity that cropped up last summer and has recently spiked.

“I have again received many complaints regarding the same nuisance activity, with residents and visitors, stating they feel unsafe and they cannot enjoy Main Beach and Heisler Park,” Farinella told the council.

“In response to the complaints, I walked the area with my command staff and found there were areas of improvement that would lessen or eliminate these issues.”

Recommended steps to improve conditions are based on her personal observations. 

The Steps

--Beat officers conducting extra patrols at Main Beach to enforce and gain compliance related to local ordinances such as no smoking, alcohol consumption and littering

--Community Outreach Officers adjusting their hours and coming in very early to handle any nuisance issues in early morning hours and collect abandoned property

--Placing a canopied information booth on the Cobblestones on the weekends

--Public Works [should] cut back the foliage next to the Hotel Laguna that was very thick allowing people to sleep there and store property 

Seven sleepers and shopping carts were found in the underbrush, to Farinella’s surprise.

“This area is now free of this activity,” said Farinella. 

Increased police main beach

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Main Beach will see increased police presence

Based on the success of the steps already taken, Farinella recommended that a blend of layered services with Marine Safety, Beach Patrol and sworn officers be continued during the winter months, all of which was approved by the council.

Specifically, Farinella recommended adjusting on-duty Beach Patrol hours to the morning hours with a focus on the area that is already problematic.

The City’s two outreach officers will continue to work with Orange County Health Care workers to focus their patrol and outreach efforts in this area.

Police will work in pair on bikes and on foot. 

Marine Safety will open an additional tower at the south end of the beach. The White Tower will be open for extended hours and a north tower will be opened if needed. 

The success of the program will be gauged by the number of calls for service and complaints related to the specific area. 

“Protecting health, safety and welfare of citizens and visitors is the most important thing we do,” said Dicterow. “This is a beginning, not an end. There will be more bills, but it is start.

“My primary concern is behavior. I want to deter bad behavior. Law and order is so important to me.”

Both Dicterow and Blake said they needed to feel safe. 

“If it takes more police – that is what we will do. I don’t care what it costs.”

Estimated cost for the approved program is $155,000 for six months. The funding will be taken from Measure LL monies, which the council prioritized for police and fire protection and emergency response services, which qualifies the proposed expenditure.

“This is a good use of taxpayers’ dollars,” said Karen Christensen.

Michael Morris asked how the success of the program could be measured. 

“I walk on Main Beach frequently and I really don’t feel that unsafe,” Morris said. “How do we measure this?”

A reduction in complaints is one way, Farinella said.   

The word homeless was never mentioned by City officials or members of the audience who spoke at the hearing.