SCV’s top cop shares local law enforcement update 

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station Captain Justin Diez speaks during an Active Shooter Preparedness presentation for the Valley Industry Association luncheon held at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Tuesday, 022024. Dan Watson/The Signal
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City leaders discussed a year-to-date comparison of crime data from Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Justin Diez, reviewing the local elements involved in a 5% countywide uptick in Part-I crimes. 

The Santa Clarita City Council’s Public Safety Committee, consisting of Councilman Jason Gibbs and Mayor Pro Tem Bill Miranda, asked questions as Diez reviewed the numbers, which reflected a decrease in violent crimes and an increase in property crimes. 

“So needless to say, our property crimes are our Achilles’ heel here, and they’ve always been,” Diez said. “We’re lucky that the violent crime is low considerably — in the property crime is where our numbers show.” 

The discussion also touched on morale challenges and other factors that have the potential to impact the work done out of the SCV Sheriff’s Station on Golden Valley Road. 

By the numbers  

The 5% countywide increase comes out to about 550 crimes, and just in Santa Clarita, there were about 100 more crimes than over the same time period the previous year.  

Diez said that broke down to about 50 more reported crimes in the unincorporated areas and the same for within city limits.  

In the violent crime categories, Santa Clarita has not yet seen a murder this year, after reporting six in 2023. 

Rapes are down significantly, with the city at 13 by this point last year and five so far this year. The number of reported robberies is down 52%, Diez said, from 21 to 10. 

Aggravated assaults saw an increase, from 33 last year by this time to 40 in 2024. 

Property crimes saw the biggest increases, and within that subset, burglaries were up significantly, with 120 incidents being reported year to date versus 73 through the same time last year, a 64% uptick. 

Larceny thefts, which refer to incidents of stolen items where burglary cannot be proven, which can include businesses and often unlocked garages or vehicles, were also up 12%. There were 377 incidents reported to the station in 58 days this year — an average of a little over six per day — compared to 335 through the same time last year  

There have been 94 reports of grand theft auto, which is up by about 20 over the same year.  

Recidivism  

One of the first questions Gibbs asked after Diez shared the numbers was about the rate of recidivism, or re-offense, among the station’s arrestees.  

“It is very high,” Diez said, adding the SCV Sheriff’s Station tracks such data and counts 2,100 people among the individuals that just the SCV station has arrested more than one time.  

The highest offender has been arrested more than 60 times, he said, but there are numerous individuals with dozens of arrests, and the station’s return visitors account for more than 40% of all arrests, he said. 

Diez said the station has the highest number of arrests for any of the five stations in North Division for L.A. County, which includes Santa Clarita, La Crescenta, Lancaster, Lost Hills/Malibu and Palmdale. 

He also said that over the past three years, of the thousands of arrests the station has made in 2021, 2022 and 2023, between 44% and 48% were either district attorney rejects, meaning prosecutors had an issue with the case, or a DA no file, meaning the case was not filed by the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office due to changes in prosecutorial priorities that were instituted by D.A. George Gascón on his first day in office in December 2020. Diez said he did not have the breakdown available from the department in terms of the percentages for where each case landed in terms of prosecutorial discretion. 

Morale 

Council members also asked earnest questions about how the deputies who patrol SCV streets are doing, in light of the department’s well-documented staffing shortages, which seem to be plaguing law enforcement agencies across the country. 

A report late last year from Sheriff Robert Luna indicated the department was short about 1,200 sworn deputies and the station has not been immune from impact. In June, the department looked to a PR firm to help with hiring. 

“How’s the morale?” Miranda asked candidly. 

Diez replied, “It’s very low.” 

Miranda said it’s a problem the city needs to help with as much as it can. 

Diez said stated it’s a countywide challenge, noting that department-wide staffing is at about 75%, but station-level staffing is at about 65%, which is about where the SCV station is.  

It fluctuates, but part of the challenge is that even the graduating academy classes, which used to bring in 90 to 100 deputies 20 years ago, now bring in about half that. 

City police departments were a growing challenge for recruitment, he said, because some of them offer housing allowances and other perks that the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department does not have in its budget. 

These smaller municipal departments also don’t seem to draft as much for mandatory overtime the way the department has for years, he said. 

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