The Santa Clarita City Council’s Public Safety Committee received its quarterly report this week from Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Justin Diez, indicating local crime is still moving opposite of the direction most would like to see.
Mayor Jason Gibbs said he requested the data and updates so he and Councilman Bill Miranda — the two members of the city’s standing committee — can stay apprised of any local public safety issues and trends.
“We like to use these quarterly meetings to really get a feel for what’s happening at the station and what the numbers are,” said Gibbs.
The news of the suicides involving one former and three current members of the Sheriff’s Department, which included two who worked in the SCV and one who worked downtown and lived here, had not yet come out by Monday morning’s meeting.
None of the four deaths reported in the 24-hour span involved deputies who were actively employed by the SCV station.
However, following the reports of Sheriff Robert Luna’s statement about the deaths Tuesday afternoon, Gibbs said department morale was also a concern that local officials were aware of, particularly considering some of the challenges facing the SCV station.
Station officials have reported the staffing level is currently about 70% of its normal level.
While the department is adding recruitment classes, Diez also said new recruits start working in custody, so while new hires are helpful, there’s no quick fix or solution for the staffing challenges.
The numbers in the department are echoed statewide, with the number of patrol officers per 100,000 residents currently at its lowest level in the 32 years the Public Policy Institute of California has tracked the data.
“Police officer morale is a huge concern for us,” Gibbs said.
Last December, Diez had to turn down additional funds from L.A. County directed at special teams to reduce holiday crime due to staffing concerns because deputies were already working so much overtime.
“I know the city and the staff is working with the department to limit those special teams when they can,” Gibbs added, mentioning the importance of officers being able to spend time with their families when they have such a difficult job.
The staffing shortage compounds another problem facing the station that Diez discussed with numbers shared by the city: Crime is up 3% in the year-to-date numbers for 2022 versus 2023, which is an increase in about 100 Part-I crimes, which run the gamut from murder to grand larceny.
“The overwhelming majority of our crime continues to be property crime,” Diez said, noting that larceny theft, which includes everything from a high-value smash-and-grab from the Apple store to a porch pirate who grabs a package, is the biggest problem, followed by burglary, then grand theft auto.
He also said one of the rising crime trends that deputies are seeing, in addition to a larger volume of crime, is a larger number of repeat offenders.
Diez said since the emergency bail schedule was first implemented March 17, 2020, the numbers from the city indicated the station has arrested 2,061 repeat offenders who accounted for 44% of all arrests — almost 7,500 — during that period.
Diez said station deputies remain undeterred.
While the court’s bail policies might not hold suspects for as long as they used to, he said deputies will still be looking to keep those who commit crimes accountable for their actions.
“Regardless of the bail policy or the DA’s policies, we will continue to make arrests,” Diez said, adding the station is averaging over 400 arrests per month. “We will not stop actively identifying violators and arresting them.”