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Laguna Beach

 Volume 11, Issue 68  | August 23, 2019


Police Chief announces crimes in Laguna at an all-time low

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The Laguna Beach Police Department reported this week that the number of crimes committed in town in 2018 was the lowest on record.

Chief Laura Farinella’s second biennial report shows a seven percent drop in crimes against people from 2016 to 2018 and a 32 percent drop in crimes against property for the same period. Murder since 2012 has been the least committed crime in Laguna: zero. Arson and assaults went up in 2018, but robbery, larceny, burglaries and vehicle theft all declined.

“I am proud to lead the men and women of the Laguna Beach Police Department who are compassionate, forward thinking, and committed to providing the highest level of law enforcement services possible,” wrote Farinella in her second biennial report since she was appointed Laguna’s chief of police in 2015.

The report includes crime statistics from 2014 to 2018, information about the officers, divisions in the department, services provided and the message from the chief, highlighting accomplishments, changes and improvements in the department since 2016. 

Improvements include a data-driven approach to identifying crime and nuisance-related issues, monthly meetings of sergeants, supervisors and command staff to discuss the best way to address those issues and the best way to include the community. 

“This data driven approach has efficiently and effectively reduced crime,” wrote Farinella. 

The department has also better used technology, such as the drone program and expanding the citywide camera system, starting to implement body cameras for officers, completing the citywide Hazard Mitigation, Emergency Evacuation and Shelter Plans, all successfully tested during the Aliso Fire in June 2018,” according to the report.

Police Chief patrol

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Officers patrolling Main Beach

“For the past two years, staffing levels of police officers have been at [their] highest due to an effort to over-hire so that when an officer is lost through natural attrition, the organization can absorb the loss without major impacts,” Farinella wrote. “Additionally, the layered services of Beach Patrol Officers and Police Cadets who complete certain tasks in a support function, such as traffic control, station duties and enforcement of certain local ordinances, allow police officers to handle more critical public safety needs.”

Community engagement and outreach programs have enhanced the department’s ability to work in partnership with all of the community, in Farinella’s view. Programs include the 300-strong Community Emergency Response Team, Citizens Academy, Cookies and Coffee with a Cop, Pizza with Police, Special Olympics’ Tip-a-Cop and the department’s first School Resource Officer. 

The department has 130 employees, including part-time seasonal staff. Of the 98 full-time employees, 54 of them sworn officers – meaning they have graduated from an accredited police academy and are empowered to carry a gun. Ten percent of them are women. 

Forty-four nonsworn employees include Police Explorers, Citizens on Patrol and Animal Shelter volunteers. Seventy-three percent are women.

K-9 Ranger joined the department just months before Farinella in 2015. His job is to sniff out hidden suspects, evidence and narcotics. He also responds to burglary alarms and crimes in progress. 

The glossy 59-page report was produced by the department, rather than farming it out, Farinella said. 

Emergency Operations Coordinator Jason Villwock put together the written materials and worked with the divisions to get photographs and statistics. Officer Mike Short created the graphs and charts in the 59-page report, which cost $3,000, funded by Farinella’s supplies budget.

“It has been sent to local law enforcement agencies and to agencies similar to ours around the state and it is being copied,” said Farinella.

The report can be reviewed page by page on the city’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net.

The mission statement of the Laguna Beach Police Department is to preserve human rights and enhance the quality of life through equitable law enforcement and responsive public service in partnership with the community.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Lynette Brasfield, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Stacia Stabler is our Social Media Manager & Writer.

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