Recognizing the Santa Clarita Valley is comprised of several unique communities with slightly different needs from law enforcement, a unique team equipped to specialize and respond to even the smallest of issues is critical for public safety.
This philosophy is held by the men and women of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Crime Prevention Unit, they said Wednesday.
“The easiest way to explain it is, you’re the face, and the name and the email for that zone,” said Deputy Brian Rooney, who covers the Castaic/Val Verde district, or Zone 2. “Whether it’s a quality of life issue or anything, they have someone that they can contact directly at the station to handle the problem.”
Rooney has served on the Crime Prevention Unit since its inception a decade ago, and is therefore its longest-tenured member. In addition to Rooney, there are five other deputies who cover a total of eight zones in Santa Clarita.
Their names are: Deputy Steven Snover who oversees Gorman, or Zone 1; Deputy Kevin Duxbury for Stevenson Ranch, or Zone 3; Deputy Karina Cervantes for Saugus and Valencia, or Zone 4 and Zone 5; Deputy Betsy Shackelford for Newhall, or Zone 6; and Deputy Andy Stowers for Canyon Country, or Zone 7 and Zone 8.
Sgt. Dan Dantice is in charge of the CPU, and Lt. Joseph Fender serves as the operations lieutenant.
On any given day, according to Cervantes, the members of CPU carry out their operations that are usually specific to their certain regions. According to the deputies, each region has its own issues, people and contacts that they need to familiarize themselves with.
Through their niched knowledge of that area they can provide support in addition to the original 9-1-1 call.
“By having a single deputy inside of that area, it gives those people the opportunity to have a single person that they can keep going back to,” said Dantice. “We have time to look into neighborhood disputes, code enforcement, we work a lot with the city.”
While their job is first and foremost to protect and serve the community, the deputies have mentioned they’ve helped residents with their neighbors keeping their trash cans curbside too long, or that there’s a strange vehicle parked on the street they don’t recognize.
For Shackleford, who handles Newhall, says her area, much like the others, does have a homeless population she regularly interacts with and attempts to help, whether by transporting them to public services or simply building a relationship with them.
“We really want to affect a change, and help the people in the community that are homeless,” said Shackleford, adding that she works closely with the city, Bridge to Home and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, or LAHSA. “We bring outreach to people who think that want it or have asked for it.”
Two of the newest additions to the team, Cervantes and Stowers, said while they’ve only recently been given their CPU assignment, they already know or are learning their turf better than most.
“I worked for four years out in the field and responded to these calls and I know what’s going on … I like to think that I know the city pretty well,” said Stowers. “We all know our frequent troublemakers in the neighborhood … my main thing is just that the community knows that, ‘Hey I’ve been out there I’ve done it, I know the city.’”
“I want them to know that there’s someone behind every crime that happens,” said Cervantes, in reference to her work on responding to even the most minor of infractions.
Cervantes referenced how a woman had called her saying that her house was placed up against a golf course. The woman had not realized it, but Cervantes had been regularly visiting the golf course knowing there were burglaries there in the past.
“I want (residents) to know that we are proactive, we are trying to get out there and be proactive and … we are trying to get ahead of it,” Cervantes said.
The team does not work solely in their districts, but, they say, since crime and homelessness knows no boundaries, they also regularly assist one another and communicate frequently to ensure a continuity in the CPU’s community.
“We’re tracking 24 hours a day, every day and putting all that information together then sharing it with all the other eight zones,” said Dantice.
“We’re trying to be more proactive and go out there and get on the front end and trying to prevent crime before it happens,” said Fender.
Each member of the CPU team asked on Wednesday for more community involvement, for more people to reach out, to come up to them if they see them in the community and speak with them and get to know them.
Those looking for more information on how to contact their zone leader can visit the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station website at http://scvsheriff.com/zone-leaders/.