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  • Malak Habbak

Diamond Bar is up 39 crimes this year, residents are concerned

Diamond Bar is up approximately 39 crimes this year as compared to last year, due to an uptick in grand theft auto, larceny and theft, according to the sheriff’s department. Residents discussed their concerns on Tuesday as the city council passed next year’s budget. Mayor Steve Tye said the residents’ concerns were brought up due to an approval that day of the $1,196,918.49 check for the 2015-2016 budget, twenty-five percent of which is dedicated to public safety. “People want to make sure that they’re getting their money’s worth,” said Tye. One benefit that Diamond Bar, a contract city of 15,000 square miles and 60,000 residents, has is the flexibility to choose where to allocate its spending and divert resources. “<…> We follow the contract city model and that allows us to do so many things that we couldn’t do if we were locked in with our own police department or library, so it’s very efficient.” Tye said residents want reassurance that the ability to increase services with the sheriff’s department was available to them throughout the year. “I’m pleased they were here. I always encourage people to <…>” One of the residents who spoke to the councilmembers was Dave Reynolds, a 26-year resident and condo owner in Diamond Bar. “We’re seeing an increase in the entire state and Diamond Bar is not immune to the problem,” said Reynolds. Like the crime rate, the public safety budget itself is set to increase, by about $564,000 this next fiscal year due in part to a 2.5 percent increase to the contract with the sheriff’s department and a payment of 6 percent, or $338,000 to the sheriff’s liability trust fund. The public safety budget in total comes to about $5.6 million, according to Diamond Bar Finance Director Dianna Honeywell. “We do recognize and we do take it very seriously that we are a big chunk of your spending on us,” Walnut/ Diamond Bar Sheriff Station Captain Jeff Scroggin. The increased costs of the deputy sheriff and the liability trust fund ensued post-Ferguson as the sheriff’s department has been forced to settle many court cases. As a contract city, Diamond Bar will have to contribute to the costs the department faces nationwide. However, it wasn’t the financial cost that residents had worried but the cost they’d have to pay as a result of crime. In 2014, the city experienced approximately 137 crimes per 10,000 residents comparing to the city’s highest crime rate recorded in 1996 with 305 crimes. Such statistical facts compiled by the FBI to compare crime rates throughout the nation, consist of part one crimes in eight main categories: criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, theft, grand theft auto and arson. Although crime rates in Diamond Bar have been in a general downward trend in the last five years, Diamond Bar’s proximity to the freeway makes the city immune to crimes that occur right off the freeway off-ramps. Even so, Scroggin said residential and commercial burglaries, larceny and theft are preventable through the Los Angeles Police Department’s Neighborhood Watch program, a “cornerstone of the LAPD’s crime prevention strategy”. Through Neighborhood Watch, residents join law enforcement to reduce crime by educating more residents and taking active measures to prevent crime. Los Angeles Police Officers supply crime information to the Neighborhood Watch groups and instruct them in various crime prevention techniques. Law enforcement has actively championed crime reduction by recruiting members into the program and DeStefano publically recognized Community Relations Deputy Aaron Scheller for educating residents and building momentum with the growing Neighborhood Watches. “I think…my job is so important because I get to go out in the community and get people aware of what to look for and what the crime trends and how to deflect these criminals from coming in our area or stop the crimes when they are occurring in our area,” said Scheller. Neighborhood Watch has come a long way in Diamond Bar. Milan Dragojlovich, 30-year Diamond Bar resident, is a member of Neighborhood Watch. “I’m also very concerned about the crime and the uptake of crimes,” said Dragojlovich, who saw the group transform from a couple of individuals in a garage to larger groups of several Neighborhood Watches. To accommodate for the increase in participants, members tried to meet at a park but the cost of reservations was prohibitive. Dragojlovich spoke before the councilmembers Tuesday asking for a room, free of charge where the Neighborhood Watch groups could collectively meet on occasion. City Manager James DeStefano recommended the groups use the Air Quality Management District, an open, free-of-charge facility to the public. And Neighborhood Watches are still expanding. Brain Worthington, resident since 1996, saw one more neighborhood chapter open up on Prospectors Road in Dry Creek on Monday, an effort Scheller helped bring about. “It’s a low cost, highly effective way to increase safety,” said Worthington. “We are a safe city … we’re gonna continue that and I’m gonna make sure that it happens.” The neighborhoods are also working on opening three more Neighborhood Watch groups in the next 30 days. In conjunction with Neighborhood Watch, the “extra eyes and ears” for local law enforcement is the Volunteers on Patrol program, where residents enlist to perform patrol duties including residential vacation checks, park safety checks, conducting traffic control, issuing parking citations and performing directed patrol assignments. The VOP’s patrol the cities of Walnut and Diamond Bar, and the unincorporated county area of Rowland Heights. The recent revamping of such programs is a likely result of the passage of Proposition 47. The community is concerned that the proposition, passed and enacted in November, is going to increase the crime rate, said Scheller, which he said is a likely. As AB 109, passed in 2011, shifted the responsibility for certain populations of offenders from the state to the counties, Scroggin and the department grew concerned about how crimes would impact the counties. Now they are concerned about Proposition 47, which would lower drug crimes and in turn prevent rehabilitation, said Scroggin. The sheriff’s department is gathering data in the coming months and will have more intelligence on the effects of Proposition 47.

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