| Filed under

Related story

By the numbers: How we feel about security issues
Ninety-four percent of Murietans responding to a survey with the Security study say they feel at least somewhat safe in the community. Almost 75 percent of us say we understand Security officers don’t have the power to arrest or investigate, but 48 percent say we expect Security to use deadly force to protect us. And 54 percent say Security officers should have police powers. Read more »


Download a PDF file of the publicly released report
Download a PDF file of the survey results

Murietans need to better understand the limitations of Security’s powers, a much-delayed report tells the Community Services District. The report recommends a strategy for a security camera network that has CSD setting system standards for the rest of the participants, and the report worries that rapid growth could leave Security without the budget needed to keep up.

General Manager Mark Martin told Thursday’s Security Committee meeting that sensitive parts of the report won’t be shared with the public – operational issues, precise camera locations and other things that should be kept confidential. But Security Chief Jeff Werblun said the attached file is pretty much the rest of the report CSD received.

The CSD board voted in December 2016 to spend $49,350 with Burns & McDonnell of Kansas City, Mo., to help the CSD plan how to provide safety in a community where growth is projected to be large and security resources can’t be expected to keep pace.

The company held a community meeting in February 2017 and offered a resident survey after that. (See the survey results here.) The citizen-input portion wrapped up in mid-March, and the board expected results the following month.

But CSD dissatisfaction forced repeated reworking of drafts by Burns & McDonnell, including adding interviews with community organizations, and CSD progress on the report was challenged for much of last year by vacancies in its general manager and security chief positions.

At last week’s meeting, Martin pointed out that the CSD has had three Security chiefs in the time the report was being developed. The first draft of the study was on hand before he started last October.

Martin described what he has been told about the study’s goal: “How do we leverage our Security forces given expected large number of new homes and the expanded commercial and industrial area?” It also contains a security camera strategy, “really key to the majority of the report,” Martin said.

The study says the community needs to understand Security’s role: “When a crime incident occurs, Security Patrol Officers and Security Gate Officers are to observe and report the incident to law enforcement, as appropriate. District Officers are not law enforcement officers and are not responsible for any law enforcement activities....”

A snippet from the study about Security’s budget:

The Security Department’s annual budget, which is funded in part by the Security Special Tax (paid by residents), is capped at 2% increase per year. Any increase beyond 2% would require a 2/3 majority vote of the District residents. Based on the maximum increase in the Security Department’s budget that can be authorized by the Board, Burns & McDonnell is concerned that continued funding of even the existing operations of the Security Department may not be possible as the anticipated District growth occurs.

California passed into state law, effective January 1, 2017 a minimum wage increase on a yearly basis across all industries. The District may be exempt from the mandatory increase called out in the new minimum wage law; however it cannot avoid the impact the increases have on the labor market. If the District’s 2% cap on budget increases limits the pay increases to the same level, current or future security officers may elect to work in another industry that may offer increased wages and the Security Department may not be able to meet the security demands or requirements of the District. Burns & McDonnell learned in interviews that benefits afforded by the District are considered superior when compared to other private security. However, it is the experience of Burns & McDonnell that personnel in similar occupations are normally not attracted to these jobs or entities for the afforded benefits. Instead, personnel in these professions are normally interested in take home wages for financial obligations. Security Patrol Officers will maintain a pay rate higher than the state minimum wage; Security Gate Officers would not match the minimum wage until after approximately eight years of service, based on the Security Departments annual 2% budget increase.

Burns & McDonnell offered three strategies for a camera system:

  • Option 1: A stand-alone system for district-owned properties. The current systems in use around the CSD properties aren’t integrated with one another and don’t offer remote viewing, the study said.
  • Option 2: Stand-alone systems integrated into the CSD operation. Other property owners (homeowners associations, the Country Club, commercial properties) would install and maintain their own systems, which meet CSD standards for integration.
  • Option 3: Like Option 2, but with live monitoring. The study estimates nine additional staffers would be required to monitor the system 24/7.

The study recommends the CSD take Option 2. Martin referred to Option 3 as a Rolls-Royce, asking, “The question is: Do we really have enough crime to warrant the dollars it would take to implement that?” Martin said there are other low-end strategies too – for example, having local cameras that aren’t networked but can be accessed after a crime.

“There are a lot of approaches, and they come at different costs,” he said. He pointed out that a previous effort to gather costs for different camera strategies netted one bid of $600,000 and another that topped $1 million. 

“The main message within this report is also that we’re underfunded as far as Security goes,” said Director Les Clark, a committee member. “The real question moving forward as the community grows or continues at its current level is whether or not we’ll be able to keep up with the costs.”

Martin quoted the survey’s “Are you willing to pay more?” questions, which show there’s little appetite for increases larger than 5 percent. Clark added, “So it shows the community is very concerned about the costs of all the services that are provided to the community.”

Director Mark Pecotich, the board president, called some of these resource challenges “a Sue Frost problem,” referring to the county supervisor, and said, “She needs to be here and involved in that discussion. What is the county going to do to be there for us?” 

In addition, he referred to CHP response times, saying, “This is bigger than this agency.” So the CSD’s response to the report shouldn’t attempt to solve all the issues. “It shouldn’t. That’s a county problem. A Sue problem.”

Martin said he plans to bring the action plan back to the committee in June before taking it to the board.

Some neighbors were on hand for the committee meeting.

“If you get out in the public what this costs, that will be the end of it,” John Weatherford said of the high-cost proposals. Jacque Villa said of the threat of high camera costs, “You’re going to price the people out of here. I know many young families who live over on the South are right up to the border right now.”


Related story

By the numbers: How we feel about security issues
Ninety-four percent of Murietans responding to a survey with the Security study say they feel at least somewhat safe in the community. Almost 75 percent of us say we understand Security officers don’t have the power to arrest or investigate, but 48 percent say we expect Security to use deadly force to protect us. And 54 percent say Security officers should have police powers. Read more »

 


Your comments