The West Hollywood City Council is scheduled to vote this afternoon on a proposal to increase the number of sheriff's deputies in the city to 136 from 99.
Capt. James Cook, commander of the sheriff's station, said the plan is designed to increase arrests and reduce serious crimes by 5%.
The vote is expected after a public hearing scheduled for 3 to 4 p.m. in Fiesta Hall at Plummer Park.
Last month the council voted to continue its contract with the Sheriff's Department after July 1, the date when the city must either provide its own services or contract with outside agencies for them. Cook, who will effectively become West Hollywood's police chief, said the law enforcement service will cost the city up to $7.3 million in the first year.
Replacing CHP Officers
Most of the 37 officers added by the plan would replace the California Highway Patrol, which will discontinue service in West Hollywood on July 1. The plan calls for 17 sheriff's deputies and one sergeant to take over traffic enforcement. They would attempt to increase the number of moving citations and drunk driving arrests by 10% over the next year, Cook said.
The most visible change in the police force, if the plan is approved, would be foot patrols by deputies 12 hours a day, six days a week. The patrols, which would concentrate on Santa Monica and Sunset boulevards, would attempt to stop prostitution, robberies and other street crimes.
But street deputies would also improve the relationship between the police and the community, Cook said.
City Councilman John Heilman said that he likes the idea of foot patrols but might suggest that the city start with fewer patrols and increase the number if they prove successful. Other members of the council also said they favor the patrols.
Officers on foot would be part of a special problems unit that would be increased to 13 deputies from four under the proposal. The special unit concentrates much of its work on reducing prostitution.
Cook said that only a handful of male and female prostitutes are now seen on West Hollywood streets but that the number went as high as 150 before the special unit began cracking down four years ago. Cook proposes that the department make at least the 1,000 prostitution and lewd conduct arrests that it made last year.
But some members of the council said they are concerned about how lewd conduct arrests are made.
"I think we do not need to enforce in some areas," Heilman said. "I'm not particularly concerned with what two people do in a movie arcade in a closed booth. I do care when things are being done in public parks and in alleys and behind residences. I think that is inappropriate. And we need to protect the community (from that).
"On the other hand we need to be concerned because lewd conduct arrests have been abused in the past. A man and a woman would not be bothered for doing what two men would get arrested for doing."
Cook said deputies usually make lewd conduct arrests in park bathrooms and public places after receiving citizen complaints. He said that 10 prostitution arrests are made for every one lewd conduct arrest.
Crime Prevention Plan
Nevertheless, Cook has been asked to present the City Council with specific information on how much time the special problems unit would direct toward lewd conduct, as compared to prostitution.
Under another provision of Cook's plan, one deputy will try to enforce licensing laws at West Hollywood businesses. About 38% of the businesses in the city operate without a business or other license, Cook said. He said a full-time deputy working on the problem should assure that all businesses in the city are properly licensed.
The city's crime prevention plan would also be expanded with four new officers. The special unit will attempt to increase the number of community watch groups to 50 from eight and the number of business watch groups to eight from two.
The unit would also begin a work release program for inmates. Prisoners from the county jail convicted of minor offenses would clean the city's parks, remove graffiti and carry out other special projects. The program could save the city about $200,000 in cleanup costs in the first year, according to the budget report.
Another five deputies would be used for increasing regular patrols and to perform desk work, Cook said.
The city's parking enforcement staff would be increased by the budget to 20 from 14. Cook said that would result in a 15% increase in parking tickets. Those parking fines and fees would bring in at least $3.5 million and offset half of the cost of police service, he said.
Swift Crime Response
Cook said the plan has three goals: to assure response to emergency calls within three minutes, to establish a feeling of safety in the city and to prevent crimes and reduce the crime rate.
West Hollywood has one of the highest crime rates in the county, 1,540 serious crimes per 10,000 of population. "West Hollywood is like a magnet," Cook said. "That adds to the charm of the city but it also brings in certain people who are bent on committing crimes."
Cook said a daily influx of employees in the design, music and other businesses increases the number of people in West Hollywood by 70,000 and that the same number come at night, attracted by restaurants, nightclubs and entertainment. "We are constantly handling about three times the normal population of the city (35,000)," he said.