Lori Donchak
Lori Donchak

By Lori Donchak

Feeling safe, day or night, is the basic requirement of a strong community. And all of us have a role to play. Urban planner Jane Jacobs coined the term “eyes on the street” as a key quality of a successful community. Her idea was that if we self-police and bear witness to activity around us, good community values will prevail.

In 2016, San Clemente City Council hired Matrix Consulting Group to analyze city public safety needs. While San Clemente is deemed one of the safest communities in the state, the study proposed more than 50 recommendations that, in the spirit of continuous improvement, will further strengthen our public safety track record. Action items range from police staffing changes and better police presence on weekends and evenings, to faster case closure on criminal investigations. You can access the study on the city website by clicking here.

A key conclusion from Matrix is that we need to do a better job engaging the community in public safety. Recently, the city increased efforts to reach out and collaborate with residents about their concerns. For example, issues at the Ocean View Plaza were reported by citizens that caused Lt. Dave Moodie to form the public safety effort TRIP, which stands for Targeting Reduction Investigation Prevention. At Ocean View Plaza, the TRIP team has employed tactics to deal with issues such as public intoxication and other disturbances that affect the customer experience in the shopping center. Matrix recognizes the high value of TRIP and encourages deeper community communication to optimize TRIP as a tool to prevent crime. TRIP is also recommended for strategic summer use when our population surges.

Community-based crime prevention plays an essential role in high-quality-of-life cities like San Clemente and assumes many forms. Matrix highlighted the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) as a unique asset and key San Clemente strength. Founded in 1985, it is the second longest tenured program of its kind in the nation. Currently, we have 34 RSVPs who perform vacation house checks, “You Are Not Alone” checks, parking patrol, special event traffic control and other community crime-prevention activities. They provide an invaluable service and are a perfect illustration of eyes on the street. If you are interested in joining RSVP, click here or call 949.361.8269.

Crime prevention is everyone’s business. As residents, we can take steps to reduce/remove the opportunity for crime and make our community safer. Here are a few:

  • Use automatic timers at home to come on at various times of the day.
  • Have adequate, low-level lighting blanketing the perimeter of your home at night, especially using motion lights.
  • Ask a neighbor to watch your home while you are away and pick up fliers or newspapers.
  • Have mail stopped until your return.
  • Have a well-managed landscape.
  • When out for the evening, leave lights on to give the appearance that someone is home.
  • Lock doors and be sure windows are shut/locked, even when you leave home for just a few minutes.
  • Always lock the car and conceal valuables.

The city is moving quickly to take steps to make San Clemente safer. Local problems that are the result of state government actions and elections, such as Assembly Bill 109 as well as Props 47 and 57, are game-changers and feed into the action items Matrix challenges us to address. Soon, in addition to a strategic master plan for community safety, you can expect better communication in the form of regular town hall meetings and other progress reports.

Finally, stay tuned for the formation of a public safety task force, also recommended in the Matrix study. City Council will be deliberating on this in April.

As your elected representative, I value your concerns and suggestions. Let me hear from you at donchakl@san-clemente.org

Lori Donchak was re-elected to City Council in 2014 and is a city member of the Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors, as well as the city’s liaison to San Clemente’s Orange County Library.

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comments (4)

  • Just clarifying…
    With regard to “Have adequate, low-level lighting blanketing the perimeter of your home at night, especially using motion lights.” Actually – this is misleading.

    Having traditional motion lights visible invites curiosity from career criminals. So does leaving lights on all the time. Visible cameras draw added interest as well.

    It would be better to replace the existing exterior lighting with smart lights which look like regular fixtures but are actuated by built-in photocells (at night) and infrared motion sensors.

    If you want camera surveillance as well be sure to use ones which are hidden to avoid career criminals thinking your home has something of added value to protect.


    With regard to “Always lock the car and conceal valuables.” is too generic. Sure that may be okay if you are just away from the car for a few minutes if you are not far from the car. It is best to not leave valuables in the car at all, particularly for long periods of time.

  • With respect to the deteriorating conditions at Ocean View Plaza, where women and children were accosted and had their lives threatened by transients and a drug crazed man was taken down at gunpoint in a beauty salon; yes, it eventually got cleaned up by the Sheriff Department. But, the city did not take it seriously until a citizen threatened to hold a public protest in front of the shopping center.

    The city receives an incident report every day from the OCSD. And, the situation at Ocean View Plaza lasted for months. It is readily observable when things are going south. The city is trying to cheap out on police services as the city has grown and become more urbanized with a proliferation of sober living homes and transient criminals released by the State of California. The problem is not a “communication” problem; it is a resource problem. Not enough deputies. The city maintains a force about 60% the size of Dana Point relative to population. Or, even less when compared to FBI averages for a city our size.

    • Okay folks, I don’t know this person and not sure if this is an attempt at satire or not. Either way, it is an epic fact fail…

      Funny thing is when I researched this person he had been in the Palm Desert City Manager office for years 15+ years. Ironically, Palm Desert has one of the worst crime rates in Southern California. According to this 2016 Safest Places in California rating – https://www.valuepenguin.com/2016/safest-places-california

      For cities in California, San Clemente comes in at #43, Dana Point #92, and his City Palm Desert is at #353 (out of 417.)

      Given most people wouldn’t listen to a poor person about how to become wealthy — not sure anyone should listen to this person who is clearly not a proven or remotely successful subject matter expert on crime.

      Not sure if this is a ploy on his part to find a new job or what. It is highly hypocritical to say these things when the city he is responsible for is among the worst in crime.

      “With respect to the deteriorating conditions at Ocean View Plaza”

      If they are deteriorating why are stores and restaurants having to leave because of the rents are being raised.

      “The city receives an incident report every day from the OCSD.”

      I believe this is another myth. When I spoke with OCSD to obtain data via a public records request last June I was told there were no daily incident reports. It is most likely something he gets in Riverside because of how unsafe Palm Desert is but not something that seems to actually exists here.

      “The city is trying to cheap out on police services… The problem is not a communication problem; it is a resource problem. Not enough deputies. The city maintains a force about 60% the size of Dana Point relative to population. ”

      Again more rhetoric. Not only is it an Apples to Oranges comparison. If you looked at the 2016 Safest Places in California link in my comments above you will see that Dana Point ranked lower in safety than San Clemente.

      Why? Because our cities are different and consequently have different needs. Staffing is based on needs, not draconian linear scales as he is suggesting. Using measurement methods that pre-date the game-changing prop 47, 57, and ab109 laws in California is a serious error in critical thinking.

      What is even worse is that you have someone with extensive experience serving in the Palm Desert City Managers Office, from a considerably less safe City suggesting that more emergency responder staff is needed while ignoring actual hard data to the contrary. Data that was confirmed at the end of 2016 from an independent study that has been very public. The SC Times summarized the findings in an article just a few weeks ago. The fact that this person makes all these claims and completely ignores the fiscal realities of paying for something like this is is surprisingly irresponsible and reckless behavior from a person who has spent 15+ years in the Palm Desert City Manager’s office.

      It seems that this person is trying to spread doubt regardless of how hypocritical it is for him to do so and with no consideration for the actual facts.

      The reality is the city actions at the location he mentions have been responsive and based on actual facts — not the conjecture of the political opportunists.

  • we are surrounded by crooks ,,,
    gee how about arresting the true criminals that spent 200k because they didn’t get there way Miss referendum

    or the the crooks that hired nielsen niggard to help[ with the theft of 11 million dollar parking fund or the theft of usable deputy’s time because she dont like workmens ladders

    or the theft of officers time by multi millionaires who won’t take care of their property that brings the blight and homeless problems and thieves our property values

    or the multi million dollar parking waivers that we don’t charge for

    or the moneys that can be spent on health and safety but is spent on the DBA instead so the can return it to some snobs campaign

    help help police im surrounded by crooks

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