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Orange County Focus

SEAL BEACH : More Patrols Urged After 3rd Robbery

September 17, 1993|SHELBY GRAD

The third armed robbery in as many weeks has residents of the usually quiet Old Town district on edge and demanding that police increase patrols in the beachside neighborhood.

The most recent robbery at gunpoint took place Saturday night on Ocean Avenue. Police believe that the three assailants were the same ones who two weeks ago held up several people on Central Avenue. The suspects are still at large.

Council members again raised the crime issue at Monday's City Council meeting, repeating their desire that a police substation be opened at the Seal Beach Pier.

Though the number of armed robberies is up from last year, city officials stressed that Seal Beach has the second lowest crime rate in Orange County, behind only Villa Park.

Nonetheless, City Manager Jerry L. Bankston said the city is taking the recent incidents seriously.

On Wednesday, police began increasing patrols in the Old Town area, especially along the side streets where the three robberies occurred. Officials also hope to have two new police officers on the force by December.

The department now has 31 officers, down from 42 three years ago. With a reduced staff, the department has tried to keep as many officers on patrol as possible by instituting 12-hour shifts and redeploying officers from other activities, Bankston said.

"Our priority is to have our police remain in the field on patrol," he said.

The city also plans to restart a reserve officer program that will allow non-sworn police employees to handle some of the paperwork and other duties now done by officers.

But officials warned that it will probably be some time before a police substation opens at the pier. The city must still study the idea, and it remains unclear where money for the station would come from.

Bankston said that such a facility would not function as a police station. Rather, it would give officers patrolling Old Town a convenient place to complete reports. The main police station is about a mile from Old Town on Seal Beach Boulevard.

Council members and residents support the pier substation because it would bring a permanent police presence to Old Town and the Main Street business district.

"Everyone wants to feel safe and secure," said Councilwoman Marilyn Bruce Hastings. "No one likes to feel like a prisoner in their own home."

Reduced Ranks

The number of sworn Seal Beach police officers has decreased by about 25% in recent years as the city faced sharp budgetary constraints. Number of officers: 1990: 42 1991: 37 1993: 31 1994*: 33 * Projected

Note: No number available for 1992

Source: City of Seal Beach

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