Regarding big-picture crime issues and plans for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Jim McDonnell spoke with the Santa Clarita Valley Chapter of the Los Angeles County Lincoln Club on Friday afternoon.
Hunt Braly, chairman of the local Republican group, expressed his support of the department in the community.
“Law enforcement is so important in helping us keep what we want and need,” Braly said.
McDonnell shared the problems the sheriff’s department faces and tied in problems with crime, drugs and human trafficking locally and nationally.
The sheriff’s department has limited resources but does the most with what they have, McDonnell said.
“We are really stretched very thin,” McDonnell said. “We’re trying to be as smart as we can with our resources.”
The county has both the largest jail system in the nation and the largest mental health facility, McDonnell said. The sheriff said he thinks it is sad that L.A. County has become the place people are sent when they have these issues and should instead be sent to local centers.
Among the key crimes McDonnell discussed was illegal drug use in light of the nationwide opioid epidemic. According to McDonnell, the problem is not as bad in California as it is in other states.
He highlighted the department’s recent use of Narcan, an antidote that sheriffs use on people who overdose.
While McDonnell said many people assume human trafficking is not a problem in the U.S., the sheriff said it is a prominent issue in L.A. County.
Recently, sheriffs made 650 arrests related to human trafficking and have rescued over 175 victims.
Their goals in ending human trafficking are to rescue the victims while going after the criminals who selling and buying the victims, he said.
After a question regarding the possible implementation of sanctuary cities, McDonnell said he was against them and wants to ensure Immigration and Customs enforcement can interfere with violent criminals who are undocumented.
Much of McDonnell’s concern was for victims or witnesses who are undocumented and are threatened to be reported by criminals. It is important to maintain the trust between victims and law enforcement so criminals do not go unpunished, McDonnell said.
Protecting against terrorism
Regarding terrorism, McDonnell said community members should be aware that an act of terror could happen at any time and in any place.
“Despite the fact that we feel safe here, we have to stay vigilant,” he said.
Since Los Angeles County is comprised people from everywhere, an act of terror has a nexus to the rest of the world, McDonnell said.
Terrorism does not always look like mass attacks, he said, but smaller incidents of violence.
Nationwide, there are about 1,000 terrorism investigations in progress at any given time, he said.
Currently, there are no credible terrorism threats in L.A. County, according to McDonnell, but he said that could change at any time.
Officers work with about 35,000 children and teens across the county, he said, including their work through the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation, the Special Olympics and athletic, homework and pen pal programs.
The school resource officer program, which was recently up for discussion by the Board of Supervisors, will have to prove its effectiveness in helping students by providing reports quantifying the program’s success.
It is more important to know that students are building relationships with officers and see them as someone they can trust, he said.
“They saw that cop as a human being,” McDonnell said. “It put a human face on the sheriff’s department.”