Posted on Wed, Mar. 08, 2006


Residents demand sheriff's patrols
DISCOVERY BAY: 96 percent surveyed feel safe, but more than half call for more policing

CONTRA COSTA TIMES

Discovery Bay residents want more sheriff's deputy patrols to quell their concerns about burglary, theft, loitering youths and drug sales.

Results of a survey sent to all 4,068 households in the unincorporated community by the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office were released this week.

Although 96 percent of respondents indicated that they felt safe, surveys were returned with numerous comments critical of the deputy services. Almost half of the 1,136 respondents made written comments as well as responding to the five questions on the survey, which was sent out in January.

Theft, burglary and vandalism were rated as the most important concerns by 72 percent of respondents.

"The reports of theft and vandalism seem quite high to me considering our location and the higher income level required to live here. I have lived in higher density locations and suburbs with significantly less or almost no criminal activity," one respondent wrote.

Sheriff's Office records show there were 29 burglaries in Discovery Bay in 2005 and no homicides, robberies or vehicle thefts. There were 32 simple assaults, nine other assaults, 114 thefts, one rape and one arson.

"For a community the size of Discovery Bay, the crime rate is really not high at all," said sheriff's Cmdr. Scott Daly. "The responses indicate residents want to see more officers in Discovery Bay. We quite honestly would love to see that, but the constraints of budget and staffing make that difficult," he said.

The sheriff's substation that serves East County is in Oakley. Three deputies and one sergeant are typically assigned to each shift. One beat includes the unincorporated area near Antioch, another encompasses Bethel Island and Knightsen and the third serves Byron and Discovery Bay, Daly said.

Other complaints made by survey respondents related to response time, drug use and sales and gang activity.

"I feel the attitude out here in Discovery Bay is you can do anything and get away with it because by the time enforcement is called and they arrive out here, the guilty are long gone," one person wrote.

"There is entirely too much teenage hooliganism and theft," another stated.

Respondents also mentioned speeding and other traffic problems and patrolling inside the gated developments -- issues the deputies aren't permitted to enforce.

The California Highway Patrol is in charge of traffic enforcement problems and community rules and regulations govern gated areas.

Some residents praised the deputies for their work.

"Thanks for letting us offer some feedback on our neighborhood. We think they are doing well with such a short staff," a respondent stated.

Sheriff Warren Rupf says he wanted to conduct the survey to determine whether complaints made by the Discovery Bay Community Services District board members reflect the concerns of the community.

The survey followed Rupf's decision to stop sending a representative to the Community Services District board meetings and his formation of a makeshift municipal advisory group of his own. Rupf said that during meetings his deputies were being unfairly characterized by some board members as insensitive and uncaring.

"By and large our reputation in the community is good and the public understands that we are trying to do what we can to provide a safety to the community," Daly said. "Only 13 percent of people responded they saw a deputy often. That isn't what we want. We want the community to know we are there all the time, not just when they make a phone call."

Residents pay for sheriff's services through their property taxes. When the county budget was slashed in 2003, the Sheriff's Office lost 20 deputies, which included a resident deputy in Discovery Bay. Many respondents indicated they wanted that deputy back.

Ray Tetreault, Community Services District board treasurer and sheriff's liaison, said he agrees that the community largely wants a greater presence of officers in Discovery Bay.

"People just want to see the officers more," he said. "We have very little crime, but we only have one deputy for the beat and if he is involved in anything he's not available for anything else."


Danielle McNamara covers East County police and fire. Reach her at 925-779-7174 or dmcnamara@cctimes.com.




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