Plan to Station Deputies in Commerce Gets Initial Look

April 27, 2017 by · 2 Comments 

When a 9-1-1 call goes out in Commerce, deputies assigned to the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s station respond with lights flashing and sirens blaring as they cut through traffic to reach crime victims and arrest the bad guys.

Commerce pays the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department $7.5 million a year to protect its residents and businesses, but worries precious response time is being lost because deputies are stationed outside the city.

As a result, Commerce officials are now reviewing a plan that could lead to a Sheriff’s substation being built within city borders.

Interim City Administrator Matt Rodriguez says Commerce would be better served with its own Sherriff’s station, specifically on the corner of Telegraph Road and Washington Boulevard. He told EGP it would cut down the time it now takes cruisers to travel down Atlantic Boulevard, the congested corridor that connects East Los Angeles and Commerce.

Mayor Ivan Altamirano agrees. “This is a critical step for public safety,” he said in response to the proposal.

Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies at a school in Commerce. (City of Commerce)

Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies at a school in Commerce. (City of Commerce)

Commerce has contracted with the Sheriff’s department since 1962 and benefits from a number of department resources, like helicopters, high-tech equipment, special enforcement teams and homicide detectives, all of which would be financially unattainable if the city ran it’s own police department.

Nonetheless, Rodriguez estimates the city is losing $1.5 million a year in service due to the longer time it takes the Sherriff’s department to respond to calls coming from Commerce. Rodriguez estimates each deputy loses an hour and a half of each shift to travel time.

“Having our deputy sheriffs deployed out of Commerce will provide better service to our residents,” he says, adding a new station would also improve response times for neighboring Cudahy and Maywood, which also contract with the Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement services.

While 27 deputies currently patrol the city, only four are “city cops,” meaning they focus on community-related issues, according to Rodriguez. Two additional deputies are stationed at the Citadel Outlets and a sergeant was recently hired to oversee deputies assigned to Commerce, a move that is expected to cost the city an additional half million dollars a year.

During a presentation last week to the city council on Commerce’s preliminary budget forecast, Finance Director Vilko Domic recommended the city allocate about $2.25 million from the anticipated sale of two city-owned properties to purchase land for the proposed substation.

Like most cities across the state, Commerce is being forced to sell off property once owned by its now-defunct redevelopment agency (RDA).

The 10-acre property where the station is being proposed is an RDA-owned property being sold to a joint venture that includes The Commerce Casino and The Citadel Outlets.

Under the plan, the city would purchase 2.5-acres of the property to lease to the Sheriff’s department, while the cost of building of the facility and its ongoing maintenance would be covered by the new property owners, according to Rodriguez.

“This would be a public-private partnership,” explained Rodriguez, who also serves as the city’s public safety director.

While he assures current response times are within the thresholds required under the city contract with the Sheriff’s, he believes building a station in Commerce could only improve service and public safety.

Not only in terms of response time, but also “visibility,” Rodriguez said.

Although Commerce is seeing a decrease in violent crime, property crimes are on the rise, says Rodriguez, who attributes the recent trend in part to prison reform measures.

Rodriguez says the city is currently in discussions with County Sheriff’s over department needs and space planning.

He hopes the city council approves funding for the substation in the city’s 2017-2018 budget in June.

If approved, the proposal would go to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for final approval.

“The substation isn’t the answer to all crime,” acknowledges Altamirano. “But it is a giant step in the path to making the city as safe as possible.”

 

Copyright © 2017 Eastern Group Publications/EGPNews, Inc. ·