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Pomona to Ask Sheriff for Gang Patrol Aid

February 09, 1989|JEFFREY MILLER | Times Staff Writer

POMONA — The city's growing gang problem, graphically illustrated by a deadly weekend of violence last month, is more than Pomona police can handle alone.

That was the consensus of residents and City Council members this week as the council voted 4 to 1 in favor of contracting with Los Angeles County to have sheriffs' deputies help patrol Pomona's streets.

Councilman C. L. (Clay) Bryant, who proposed that the city request help from the Sheriff's Department, said the need for such assistance was demonstrated by the events of Jan. 22-23. Two people were killed, five injured and a police officer fired upon in a series of drive-by shootings.

"Pomona is rapidly becoming a haven for undesirables and a weekend shooting gallery," Bryant said. "It is obvious that our Police Department is not equipped to provide the protection and enforcement which the present situation demands."

Bryant's proposal was supported by residents who spoke on the matter at Monday night's council meeting.

'Clean Up the Scum'

"Our Police Department is not cutting it," resident Leslie Carpenter said. "We need the Sheriff's Department in here to clean up the scum and make Pomona safe again."

Police Chief Richard Tefank argued against the move, noting that the department had bolstered its anti-gang efforts by having some officers work 10 hours of overtime a week.

Since Jan. 23, police on this specialized gang duty have arrested 36 gang members in intensive sweeps and seized five guns and four Molotov cocktails, Tefank said.

"Our officers know the community," Tefank said. "They know the individuals involved. . . . Through the use of overtime and redeployment of officers, we could respond in a much more timely and efficient manner."

Instead of bringing in the Sheriff's Department, Tefank suggested that the council appropriate $83,400 to continue the police overtime program for another month and repaint Pomona police cars from their current white to a more visible black and white.

The council, however, chose both alternatives. Council members voted to give Tefank the money he requested and authorized City Administrator A. J. Wilson to seek assistance from the Sheriff's Department. If sheriff's officials and the county Board of Supervisors approve the request, deputies could be on patrol in Pomona in 30 to 90 days, Tefank said.

Sheriff's Cmdr. John Hammargren said Wednesday that he had yet to receive an official request for assistance from the city but that he planned to meet with Tefank to discuss Pomona's needs and the county's ability to help.

"Within our resources, we'll give them any help we can," Hammargren said. "Pomona has a fine Police Department, so we're not sure what we can do for them that they couldn't do for themselves. . . . They have gang problems and so do we, and we don't see any massive set of solutions or we all could avail ourselves (of) them."

The Sheriff's Department patrols unincorporated areas of the county and incorporated cities that don't have police departments. Only rarely does the department send deputies into cities to help out local police, Hammargren said. "It's not common, but it's not unprecedented," he said.

Police Overtime

Tefank said it would be cheaper and more timely to rely entirely on Pomona police officers working overtime. By having officers work 50 hours a week instead of 40, the department increases its presence on the street by 30% during peak hours for gang activity, Tefank said.

The cost of paying a police sergeant and eight officers to work an extra day on overtime is $2,250, Tefank said. Although the county will not quote prices for police services, Tefank estimated that eight deputies and a sergeant would cost the city $2,785 a day, based on the county's contract rates for 1986-87, adjusted for inflation.

"I would submit that it could be done cheaper with our officers," Tefank said. This statement drew a stern rebuke from Bryant, who normally prides himself on being a tight-fisted fiscal conservative.

"Here we're talking about the welfare of the city, the quality of life, the safety of the people, and you're talking about money," Bryant said. "You can't put a value on safety."

Although Pomona has dealt with violent spates of gang activity in the past, the growing problem of gangs in north Pomona who are affiliated with the Los Angeles-based Bloods and Crips has panicked some residents, Councilwoman Nell Soto said.

For Sale Signs Going Up

"Right after the January incident, I went around town and the 'for sale' signs were going up. . . . " Soto said. "I think it's disgraceful when the gangs and the hoodlums have intimidated the good people of Pomona to the point where they want to move."

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