Rossmoor directors seek more info about public safety metrics

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Rossmoor governance again resurfaces as an issue as RCSD discusses public safety.

Lingering issues, an increase in thefts and two recent incidents within the unincorporated area of Rossmoor apparently prompted a discussion of their security, including questioning exactly how many patrols they are getting from local law enforcement agencies.
During a lengthy discussion during their November meeting, directors openly questioned the actual patrol metrics of both the California Highway Patrol and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Since Rossmoor remains an unincorporated municipality, they have little authority to create their own force and depend upon two agencies for patrols and neighborhood security.
In addition, RCSD General Manager Joe Mendoza told directors that there have been two elementary school students on bicycles hit by cars and the California Highway Patrol has told him that additional patrols in Rossmoor would cost at least $10,000 annually.

Director Tony DeMarco questioned Knutson on why patrols were not available recently when a suspicious white van apparently followed a young woman walking her dog, or at least, did not arrive in time to identify the van.

Knutson explained that the OC Sheriff’s deputies that patrol Rossmoor are also responsible for other unincorporated areas, Bolsa Chica wetlands and other areas. Knutson said there are always three to six deputies on patrol.

In Rossmoor, the OC Sheriff’s Department is responsible for security and the CHP is responsible for traffic control, speeding and similar responsibilities.

“How many hours do we get per month and who determines that?” asked DeMarco. “I don’t need the exact time of day,” said DeMarco, but “it would be nice to know.”
Getting such information would “inform us about how the system is working and how it is not working,” said Director Mark Nitikman.

“Do we have enough coverage here?” asked RCSD President Dr. Jeff Barke. “We don’t know where the deputy was and we ‘re never really sure when a deputy is here.”

He asked Knutson if the RCSD needs an “updated contract” with the county, saying metrics would help them determine if they needed to ask the Supervisor for additional resources.
Knutson said there is no contract, per se, between the county and the district for patrols, and Officer Matt Musselman was not available to speak on behalf of the CHP.

Knutson said he understood the district’s concerns, however, he said to the best of his knowledge, the information they were discussing is not currently being tracked. He is sure, however, that Rossmoor is assigned a deputy 24-hours a day.

“You’re [RCSD] one of a very few [unincorporated areas]” that has an assigned deputy, added Knutson.

Barke floated the idea of having Sheriff Dan Barnes attend a future meeting to answer questions. The OC Sheriff’s Office is among the largest in the nation. According to its website, the OC Sheriff has nearly 30 Divisions, 4,000 employees and 800 reserve staff.
Director Jeffrey Rips said while he perhaps agreed with the need for additional patrol metrics, the district should be very careful about letting the public know exactly when deputies were in or out of the community.

Barke agreed and suggested that when and if such a discussion ever ensued, they should ask the legal advisor about considering such information as “privileged” and discuss it in closed session.

Director Nathan Searles thanked Knutson for the OCSD’s vacation patrols, including its vacation checks program. “With the holidays approaching,” Searles said he wanted to remind residents of the program.

Knutson said residents can find information on the OC Sheriff’s Department website, but basically, if homeowners plan to go away on vacation, if they notify the OCSD, deputies will “from time to time,” stop by the vacationers’ residence to make sure everything was okay.

Regarding the elementary students hit by cars on the bicycles, Mendoza said thankfully, there were no injuries, but it is a sign that something needs to happen to keep students safe. “There are so many kids out there,” said Mendoza, “so we can predict that and we want to slow people down.”

Mendoza said his inquiry with CHP revealed that for the cost of $10,000 annually, they could obtain 24 additional four-hour patrols, for which, he said, RCSD should not alone have to bear the entire expense.

Mendoza said while he thought the Los Alamitos Unified School District should contribute, the district refused to financially participate in providing the extra patrols, he said.

Nevertheless, Mendoza said Dr. Jerry Friedman, LAUSD’s Director of Safety and Student Services said, “the school district is not part of that equation.”

“I disagreed with him,” said Mendoza. Friedman did refer him to the Los Alamitos Educational Foundation, said Mendoza, and he does plan to meet with them.

Dr. Friedman confirmed that he meets regularly with the Rossmoor Traffic and Safety Committee.

Supt. Dr. Andrew Pulver briefly acknowledged the incident during his Superintendent’s report on Tuesday.

“We’ve been partnering with RCSD to put up signs,” said Pulver, acknowledging that Dr. Friedman “has been working directly with RCSD.”

He also acknowledged, however, that patrolling the streets “is the responsibility of our law enforcement agencies” and not the school district.

“We have just recently asked them to do another traffic study to see if they would consider additional crossing guards,” said Pulver. “Crossing guards are not under the jurisdiction of the district. They are in the local cities and municipalities jurisdiction, but we will continue to partner with them.”

In addition, Mendoza said he would follow up the board’s recommendation to look for potential grants or other resources offered the OC Board of Supervisors for enhanced Rossmoor safety.

Knutson told DeMarco that the nine reported thefts of catalytic converters in the most recent report each represented a loss of approximately $2500.

Rossmoor directors seek more info about public safety metrics