Friday, March 23, 2007 | At the grand opening of Carmel Valley’s new police substation Thursday, Council President Scott Peters, Mayor Jerry Sanders and Police Chief William Lansdowne lauded the city’s latest asset as a grand achievement of the community. In the words of Lansdowne, “San Diego is clearly the American dream, and this starts to build that statement even better than before.”

The new facility, which could eventually house up to 120 police officers, is a shiny new building with more than 21,000 square feet of space. Police officials said they hope to greatly decrease response times in seven neighborhoods that previously were served by officers working out of University City or Rancho Peñasquitos.

A New Station for the North

  • The Issue: The San Diego Police Department just opened a new substation in Carmel Valley.
  • What It Means: Police officials say the new station will speed up response times and provide local residents with a host of services that previously would only have been available several miles away in University City or Rancho Penasquitos.
  • The Bigger Picture: With San Diego losing an average of 14 police officers a month so far in 2007, police union representatives say the new substation — and the staff needed to run it — are luxuries that the city can ill afford. They also question the need for additional policing in an area that has a much lower crime rate than other parts of the city.

But with the SDPD currently losing an average of 14 officers a month, union officials have questioned whether this is the time to be diverting people and resources to one of the safest parts of the city. Records show that the staff for the new division has come from all over the city, some from areas where the crime rate is far higher and where the police are already feeling the pinch of the decrease in their ranks.

“When you’re in a recession, you don’t expand,” said Brian Marvel, a director of the Police Officers Association and an officer with the department’s western division. “My question would be, is it really prudent to open another substation when the department is down approximately 220 police officers?  It appears that minimum staffing is becoming the acceptable staffing level in which we operate — reactive instead of proactive.”

The northwestern substation is among the facilities the city pledged to build in northern San Diego when it asked voters in 1998 to transform the largely-rural areas of Carmel Valley, Torrey Highlands and Pacific Highlands Ranch into bedroom communities. Nine years later, with the city struggling in a financial crisis, officers have not received a raise in more than two years and officials say the force faces severe recruitment and retention issues.

Peters, who represents the neighborhoods the new station will serve, said that the facility will serve the needs of his constituents a long way into the future.

“Our mistake in San Diego was always that we built houses, but that we didn’t build the infrastructure to go with them,” he said. “We have very carefully planned that this police station will serve these new homes, as well as the two new fire stations we have planned.”

It’s evident that the new building can accommodate many more than the 32 staff members that have begun work there in the last few weeks. The cavernous locker rooms house 110 male lockers and 40 female lockers, and the main office hall has rows and rows of cubicles that now sit empty.

Northwestern division is made up of seven neighborhoods: Black Mountain Ranch, Torrey Highlands, Torrey Preserve, Carmel Valley, Sorrento Valley, Del Mar Heights and North City. These areas were previously policed by officers from northern and northeastern divisions, but will now be monitored by the new northwestern division.

Police Department Reorganization

Division Net Change in Staffing
Training/
Volunteer Services
Lose 12 Officers
Northern Lose 10 Officers
Central Lose 3 Officers
Western Lose 2 Officers
Northeastern Lose 1 Officer
Mid-City Lose 1 Officer
Organizational
Effectiveness
Lose 1 Officer
Southern No Change
Eastern No Change
Southeastern No Change
Source: Feb. 22 SDPD memo
Click on the map below to enlarge:

Division Net Change in Staffing
Training/
Volunteer Services
Lose 12 Officers
Northern Lose 10 Officers
Central Lose 3 Officers
Western Lose 2 Officers
Northeastern Lose 1 Officer
Mid-City Lose 1 Officer
Organizational
Effectiveness
Lose 1 Officer
Southern No Change
Eastern No Change
Southeastern No Change
Source: Feb. 22 SDPD memo
DivisionNet Change in StaffingTraining/
Volunteer Services
Lose 12 OfficersNorthernLose 10 OfficersCentralLose 3 OfficersWesternLose 2 OfficersNortheasternLose 1 OfficerMid-CityLose 1 Officer Organizational
Effectiveness
Lose 1 OfficerSouthernNo ChangeEasternNo ChangeSoutheasternNo ChangeSource: Feb. 22 SDPD memo
Click on the map below to enlarge:

Click on the map below to enlarge:

Division Net Change in Staffing
Training/
Volunteer Services
Lose 12 Officers
Northern Lose 10 Officers
Central Lose 3 Officers
Western Lose 2 Officers
Northeastern Lose 1 Officer
Mid-City Lose 1 Officer
Organizational
Effectiveness
Lose 1 Officer
Southern No Change
Eastern No Change
Southeastern No Change
Source: Feb. 22 SDPD memo
DivisionNet Change in StaffingTraining/
Volunteer Services
Lose 12 OfficersNorthernLose 10 OfficersCentralLose 3 OfficersWesternLose 2 OfficersNortheasternLose 1 OfficerMid-CityLose 1 Officer Organizational
Effectiveness
Lose 1 OfficerSouthernNo ChangeEasternNo ChangeSoutheasternNo ChangeSource: Feb. 22 SDPD memo
Click on the map below to enlarge:

Click on the map below to enlarge:

DivisionNet Change in Staffing
Training/
Volunteer Services
Lose 12 Officers
NorthernLose 10 Officers
CentralLose 3 Officers
WesternLose 2 Officers
NortheasternLose 1 Officer
Mid-CityLose 1 Officer
Organizational
Effectiveness
Lose 1 Officer
SouthernNo Change
EasternNo Change
SoutheasternNo Change
Source: Feb. 22 SDPD memo
Click on the map below to enlarge:

Capt. Boyd Long, whose northern division transferred 10 officers to the new division, said he used to send two officers to police those neighborhoods. Neighboring northeastern division also provided two officers to the area.

Long said the new division will provide the same level of policing — roughly four officers on the street at any one time. If that doesn’t sound like many, that’s because the area now covered by northwestern division is, statistically, the safest part of the city of San Diego. According to police statistics, in 2006, there were a total of 98 violent crimes committed in the seven beats that make up the new division.

That’s compared to 1,330 violent crimes in the mid-city division; 1,026 in southeastern division and 850 in western division.

Western division lost four staff members — two officers and two sergeants — to the new facility. The two officers have since been replaced and division Capt. Sarah Creighton said she hopes to receive two new sergeants in the department’s next round of promotions. Last year there were 1,724 property crimes committed in the northwestern beats. In western division, that number was 7,961.

Lansdowne explained the shift in resources by saying that response times have been too high in the area due to officers having to negotiate traffic from other parts of north San Diego.

“The officers that are currently assigned here today are the officers that work in the area,” Lansdowne said. “We’ve taken no one from any other station.”

But an internal police department memo, dated Feb. 22, shows transfers of staff to the new division from southern division, western division, mid-city division and southeastern division. The captain of the new division, David Rohowitz, is being transferred from central division, where 1,067 violent crimes were committed last year.

“Northwestern is like a luxury penthouse on a building that’s crumbling,” said Jeff Jordon, an officer with the SDPD’s western division who sits on the police union’s board. “It’s like they’ve built this beautiful building on top of a structure whose foundations are falling apart.”

The captains of the divisions that have provided staff to northwestern were quick to quell any suggestion that their officers were being poached.

“It’s a real short-term impact on me,” said Creighton of western division. “Nothing is significantly different.”

Capt. Guy Swanger of mid-city division saw three officers transferred to northwestern but said he was provided with three new recruits “the next day.” Swanger stressed that staff are continuously moved around the department to best fill the city’s needs, and though he lost three experienced staff members, he said he welcomed new recruits to his division as the mid-city provides an ideal training ground for young police officers.

Whatever disagreement there may be within the police force about the need for the new substation and about how it is being staffed, the local residents who turned out Thursday for the building’s grand opening were united in their support for the shiny new facility.

Torrey Hills residents Todd and Heather Saier brought their son Luke to witness the building’s unveiling. As Luke scampered around wearing a silver badge saying “Sheriff Luke,” Todd said he’s delighted the new station’s in his neighborhood.

“This is wonderful. We’ve waited a long time for this. Response times have been slow in Torrey Hills and we expect them to get quicker,” he said.

Please contact Will Carless directly with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or send a letter to the editor.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.