A Citizen’s Patrol Program expected to cost Lake Elsinore $246,426 to get started was put on hold by City Council Tuesday night pending more details.
The halt came during
Lake Elsinore Public Safety Advisory Commissioner Elizabeth Dana pitched the Citizen’s Patrol Program to City Council Tuesday, and said the $246,426 cost would cover such upstart activities as advertising, community promotions, administrative costs, and bringing volunteers on board. Two specific program activities would include sending a letter to all Lake Elsinore Unified School District parents warning that they are liable if their children tag property in the city; the letter would require a parent signoff. The program would also see a bounty program that would reward $1,000 for any tip that leads to the arrest and conviction of a tagger.
Lake Elsinore Sheriff’s Station Captain Dave Fontneau was at Tuesday night’s meeting and said graffiti is prevalent in the city, yet few taggers are caught and convicted. As part of Tuesday night’s budget review, council members gave their ok to move forward on hiring a new graffiti technician to help tackle the workload of cleaning up defaced city property.
While council members generally praised the Citizen’s Patrol Program, which would be spearheaded by the Public Safety Advisory Commission with input from the Lake Elsinore Police Department, they said they could not sign off on it without specific details on critical issues such as how volunteers would be selected, what type of training they would receive and would the city be held liable if a volunteer got hurt while performing patrol duties.
“I haven’t seen a plan,” said Councilman Peter Weber.
Councilwoman Melissa Melendez said she wanted to first see the city utilize its resources to put more deputies back on patrol before paying out for the new program. For budget reasons, the city has had to cut down on police services contracted through the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
“I would like to see us get (those patrol deputies) back,” Melendez said.
Captain Fontneau said the city is at a six-year low in terms of the number of patrol officers in the field.
“We value community patrol, but we need to get back to where we were (with sworn deputies on the street),” he said.
But Dana said the Citizen’s Patrol Program was better than nothing and warned that not having a community watch program was an injustice to the city.
“Quality of life is rapidly declining,” she said of Lake Elsinore.
Council members said they would consider the program once specific details were presented to them.
During Tuesday night’s discussion on public safety, Dana also called on the city to consider installing more cameras in crime-prone areas. After discussion, there was concern by council members that the cameras may not be very effective in helping to reduce crime. According to Captain Fontneau, the number of photos snapped by the cameras that have proved useful to law enforcement is negligible.
After discussion, staff was directed by council members to investigate the efficacy of the cameras.
All concerned community members will have a chance to learn more about proposed activities of the Citizen’s Patrol Program during an April 11 meeting of the Lake Elsinore Public Safety Advisory Commission at the Cultural Center on Main Street. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. (Click here for more information.)