Our community is about to enter into deliberations about one of the most important strategic considerations in the history of Del Mar, how we handle our law enforcement services.
Much analytical work has been done by citizens, staff, and outside consultants. It is now time for the community at large to weigh in. We owe ourselves deliberate and thoughtful interaction based on facts and analysis. It will be important that we approach this important issue with open minds, diligent study, and respect for varying opinions. We need to take a generous amount of needed time to assess alternatives and build a strong community consensus that will enable our City Council to make a smart decision.
Beginning with incorporation decades ago we have always contracted with the Sheriff’s Office to provide law enforcement services. The cost of those services has risen over time to a little more than $2 million annually, with projections of continued increases each year. An important part of our deliberation will be assessing the benefits we get from that level of expenditure versus other possible alternatives.
The studies and analysis to date conclude that the cost of operating our own police department with a higher level of staffing would fall within the same range or slightly lower. This alternative would also require a careful assessment of the benefits we would get versus continuing to contract with the Sheriff, as well as start-up costs. Of course, we already have experience with our valued Ranger program that is restricted by state law to the beach area.
A key part of our community conversation should be an understanding of “community policing”, a model that has been adopted by a number of towns. This approach covers necessary enforcement actions and adds emphasis on building relationships within neighborhoods, prevention, education, and service. This community approach is already familiar to Del Mar citizens through our interaction with other city departments such as Lifeguard, Fire, and Public Works.
Del Mar already has a well-earned reputation for robust citizen involvement. Never has it been more important for us all to engage on this vital goal of protecting our neighborhoods. We trust that our Code of Civil Discourse will guide our community conversation.