By Lew Avera
Recently, Matrix Consulting Group conducted a major study of San Clemente Police Services. There was an extensive amount of data and a large number of conclusions regarding the effectiveness of our police services.
This Lew’s Views will not comment on specific data; however, crime activity in San Clemente remained fairly consistent between 2015 and 2016. This was also consistent with such data across all of Orange County. In this context, criminal activity ranges from major felony crimes to lesser misdemeanors, nuisances, traffic control and other safety-related activities.
We are fortunate that we don’t see the types of violent crimes that are constantly on television news. Much of our criminal activity is related to alcohol and drug use and can be attributed to our large homeless population, which falls under nuisances.
While the majority of our population seems to be satisfied with our law enforcement and safety activities, of the 500 people who responded to the survey in connection with this study, a significant number stated they were dissatisfied. This is not unusual, and they are not to be criticized. The city will be taking major steps in the near future to reach this population and resolve their apprehensions.
I have had the good fortune over my 16 years in San Clemente to work closely with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) and our local San Clemente branch. During my Grand Jury years in 2004-2005, I spent much time with all elements of OCSD at the highest levels of the jail system, coroner’s office, drug enforcement, training and overall county operations. I found all of these operations to be very outstanding at the county level. I have worked with our local sheriff’s detachment in many ways, in particular with our former and present chiefs, Lieutenants Paul D’Auria, John Coppock and Dave Moodie. D’Auria and Coppock were promoted to captain and have moved on to wider responsibilities. The fundamental value in each of these individuals is their ethics, which from my experience and observation did and does permeate down through the entire San Clemente Police Services. I have seen it in many of our deputies and assistants.
As a result of the study, the city is exploring and developing ways to connect with residents to better understand local law enforcement, bring citizens and law enforcement closer together, and develop ways in which all of our citizens can assist and improve law enforcement and safety in the city and surrounding areas. This is a significant, crucial and effective way to accomplish this goal. Three years ago, the city conducted two annual “Sheriff’s Academies,” which consisted of one night a week for 13 weeks of training with deputies for 24 randomly selected citizens each of the two years. Six of these sessions were trips to Santa Ana facilities. We were close to prisoners, visited the autopsy labs and even fired weapons at the indoor range. This program had to be discontinued after two years due to the costs to the city and OCSD, and the time commitment of our local staff, particularly Sgt. Joe Bull, was prohibitive. It would be marvelous if such a program—or even a reduced hands-on program—could be reinstituted. Absent this, I would strongly encourage the most extensive program possible for our citizens. It should be repetitive to continually acquaint as many citizens as possible with our law enforcement and safety activities. It is equally important to accommodate extensive and ongoing feedback from the community to Police Services. From discussions with Police Services leaders, I know they welcome such interaction.
For all of us, law enforcement is not a one-way street. Rather, it is all elements of the community working together to reach our common goals—safety, security, freedom of movement, mutual support and enjoyment of our life in San Clemente.
Lew Avera is a retired career officer, Lt. Col., U.S. Marine Corps. He has been a director of the Talega HOA since 2003 and served on the San Clemente Planning Commission from 2005 to 2013.