More Police Service for the SCV?

By Darryl Manzer
"Way Back When"
The Signal
Sunday, July 23, 2006

W
ay back when, we knew every deputy sheriff in the Santa Clarita Valley. There were not many, if you didn't count the ones in Castaic at the "honor farm."
    They always seemed to show up just when we wanted to do some mischief, such as decorating the front of Hart High with toilet paper. They also had a habit of driving into the A&W and getting out of their car to talk with every teenager at the place. We had to contend with our local CHP officers doing the same thing. Bummer!
    Crime was something that happened in the lesser valley and cities to the south of the SCV. Should the perpetrators attempt to come north, they would be met not only with the local deputies and CHP officers, but up into the 1960s a local posse, sometimes on horseback, also would form to find the felons and bring them to justice.
    Today, as the SCV fills with people and industry, you'd be hard pressed to know many of those who protect and serve you every day. They are spread too thin. Sheriff Baca says he is short by more than 1,000 uniformed men and women. And remember, Los Angeles County covers an area the size of Rhode Island and Delaware plus another 800 square miles. Baca's fights with the county supervisors over his budget are nearly legendary.
    Which led me to ask some of my "spies" to look at police budget numbers for other California cities and areas. Agent number 639 came through with some startling facts.
    Simi Valley, nearly equal in area and population to the SCV, and with about the same total budget, spends 23.7 percent of its money on police protection. Glendale, Burbank, San Fernando, Culver City and Torrance budget more than 21 percent of their city funds to police. In Santa Clarita, the police get 13.3 percent of the city's money. Only 13.3 percent! County funds dedicated to the SCV are worse.
    Maybe it is time for Santa Clarita to think about having a police force of its own — but to do that would take even more budgetary dollars. How would they do that without increasing taxes or cutting other services? The money and manpower certainly isn't going to come from Los Angeles County. The supervisors don't give the sheriff enough now, and Santa Clarita can't afford more unless...
    One purpose of having a city is to provide for the protection and welfare of its citizens. Taxes can be increased (bad), or the tax base can be increased by encouraging industry and businesses to locate in the city.
    If there isn't much room left in the city for new industry, another method is to increase the size of the city to include new or existing areas of industry and business, increasing the tax base without a major increase in the police and fire protection required. Thus the drive by Santa Clarita to annex other parts of the SCV.
    Annexation to the west of Interstate 5 isn't all that popular with some who think they may some day form a new city in the SCV. There are those who say Santa Clarita is attempting to take away industry and tax base from those areas to prevent a second SCV city.
    I don't think so. Santa Clarita needs additional tax funds for increased police and fire protection, plus it was never any secret since long before Santa Clarita was formed that the city of Santa Clarita should encompass the whole valley. The city is just doing now what was denied by the Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission so many years ago.
    Those who don't know the history of the SCV should learn it before admonishing the city for doing what it has always said it wanted to do.
    As I hear from my "spies" and read the electronic version of The Signal, I note that there is an increase in crime. Bank robberies seem to be a weekly happening, as do school brawls or riots and even murders.
    The Sheriff's Department is understaffed and underfunded. The county supes won't give the sheriff more money, so the department is taking to appearing on reality shows for funds.
    Nobody wants increased taxes or decreases in the other services that the city and county offer. How does the SCV get better police protection without breaking the bank?
    It has been stated for more than 40 years, and it is still the only viable answer:
    One valley, one city.
    Until the whole of the SCV can control police and fire protection, until the whole of the SCV can speak with one voice at the county and state levels, those services are going to be the understaffed and underfunded budget items.
    Another city isn't the answer. It, too, would still have to contract with Los Angeles County for police and fire protection, and both cities would have to fight with the county over those problems.
    For those of you who think staying with the county is still a viable option, know that only about 5 percent of what you pay in taxes is returned to you for police and fire services. You don't need much more yet — but given the propensity of the county supervisors to allow more housing tracts, your time is coming. It may already be here.
    And thanks to Agents 001, 002, 161, 99 and 639 this week. Hope y'all stay out of the heat!

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley and eventually relocated to Boulder City, Nev. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].


©2006, DARRYL MANZER · ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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