Sheriff’s Department plans more specialized operations to tackle Santa Clarita Valley’s crime

Deputy Sheriff Betsy Shackelford engages in conversation with three people at a Newhall Starbucks on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Austin Dave/The Signal
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At a Starbucks coffee shop less than one mile from this week’s sweep targeting the Newhall 13 gang, Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Robert Lewis and his team poured coffee for residents interested in hearing about the force’s plans to fight crime.

With Thursday morning’s gang operation in the rear-view mirror, Santa Clarita’s police force is looking ahead to the next campaign against organized crime.

Seated at a table across from a pair of local residents, Lewis made two points clear: crime will not be tolerated and the city’s policing is taking on a more personal tone.

Three Santa Clarita residents approach Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Robert Lewis at a Starbucks in Newhall on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Austin Dave/The Signal

Communicating through Facebook and Twitter postings in June, the station’s captain emphasized the need to develop a crime prevention mission and several goals through predictive policing.

“This entails identifying areas where crimes are frequently occurring and making an action plan,” Lewis said.

Presently, the process begins with the patrol deputies who contact residents negatively impacted by crime. Those connections are made through various avenues, and in many cases, over a cup of coffee.

From there, the information is reported to a set of deputies responsible for overseeing and analyzing crime in eight zones encompassing the Santa Clarita Valley.

The team reports their findings to Lewis who then organizes specialized teams to conduct various operations designed to target and resolve specific issues.

“It really has made a big difference in crime,” Deputy Sheriff Betsy Shackelford said. “Weekly we’re taking people to jail and we do see the impact it’s having on the community.”

Motor Sergeant William Lynch engages in conversation with three people at a Newhall Starbucks on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Austin Dave/The Signal

Shackelford was one of a few deputies assigned to the Thursday morning task force responsible for capturing three men with ties to local organized crime.

“Several complaints were received,” she noted, adding that the issues often pinpoint where action needs to be taken by local law enforcement.

Monthly, station deputies meet with locals over coffee to take in those complaints. Friday’s meeting somewhat broke the pattern.

Lewis, Shackelford, Deputy Kevin Duxbury and Sgt. William Lynch received several hugs each paired with a sentiment of gratitude for their work in the Newhall area.

“Most of the deputies who work at the Santa Clarita station live in the community,” Shackelford said. “We all love this community and we all care about it so it feels good to go out and be able to make a difference and affect people’s lives.”

As the approach to policing the Santa Clarita Valley shifts to a personal tone, deputies are finding people are confiding in them more often.

“Not a day goes by where we aren’t approached from someone in the public who thanks us for our service and expresses appreciation,” Shackelford said. “That makes doing this job worth it.”

Deputy Sheriffs Kevin Duxbury and Betsy Shackelford engage in conversation at a Newhall Starbucks on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Austin Dave/The Signal

Duxbury attributed the uptick in gratitude to an increase in awareness.

“It does help to make them more aware of what we do,” the veteran policeman said.

Deputies are often approached and asked why they aren’t addressing a specific need. Duxbury commonly finds the resident was unaware that the station had indeed taken action.

Lewis said the station’s latest efforts to tackle crime have been made more apparent – both to residents and criminals alike. The captain confirmed more operations have been planned throughout the valley.

“It gives the residents comfort to know their voices are being heard and their issues are being taken care of,” Duxbury said.

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