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Captain: Station move ‘bad business’

Law enforcement: Becker surprised by proposal to shut down Valencia headquarters

Posted: February 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.
 

Los Angeles County officials never discussed  shutting down the existing sheriff’s station in Valencia to build another station in Castaic with Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Paul Becker, he said Friday.

Meantime, spokesmen for Sheriff Lee Baca and county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said they were prepared to discuss plans for new Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s stations with Santa Clarita city officials.

Becker said Friday he had been asked to provide Sheriff’s Department staffing levels for the unincorporated areas of the Santa Clarita Valley, but he never discussed placing the station to the northwest of most Santa Clarita Valley residents.

Similar to Santa Clarita City Manager Ken Pulskamp’s statement earlier this week, Becker said there had been previous talk about an additional station for the unincorporated areas west of Interstate 5, but no talk of shutting down the existing, more central location.

“That’s something that I never discussed with the county and never discussed with the city,” Becker said.

County supervisors Tuesday directed their chief executive officer to take the first step toward buying two six-acre parcels of land off Interstate 5 from Newhall Land Development Inc. — one for a new courthouse and one for a new sheriff’s station.

To fund the station’s construction, the county would sell its interest in the existing Civic Center at Valencia Boulevard and Magic Mountain Parkway, shutting down the existing Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, under the plan approved Tuesday.

The proposal would require final Board of Supervisors approval.

Santa Clarita city officials immediately criticized the move, saying a single station in Castaic would make policing the Santa Clarita Valley considerably more difficult.

Becker said he was in support of building a new station, but locating the only Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s station near Castaic does not make sense. He said deputies working in Canyon Country could wind up spending 40 minutes each way just traveling back and forth between the station and their beats — eating up a significant portion of their time in transportation.

“It’s just not practical,” Becker said. “It’s just bad business.”

While a full substation elsewhere in the Santa Clarita Valley might be a good idea, the cost would be high, Becker said.

He said a logistical study would probably be needed to determine where stations were needed and how they could be operated.

With 268,000 residents, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station currently has the highest population of any of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s stations, Becker said. Lakewood is second with about 240,000 residents.

A spokesman for Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said the agreement signed by supervisors on Tuesday was preliminary and the main focus was on purchasing land for a new courthouse.

“The sheriff wants the Santa Clarita Valley to know that they will always have a sheriff station,” said Baca spokesman Steve Whitmore. “They may have more than one.”

Baca wants to discuss plans for sheriff’s stations with the city, Whitmore said.

“The sheriff wants to be clear that the city of Santa Clarita is so important to discussions,” Whitmore said. “There’s no plan right now. There’s just early ruminations on this.”

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich is also interested in discussing new sheriff’s stations with the city, according to spokesman Tony Bell.

“We look forward to working with the sheriff and the city to provide the best possible law-enforcement and justice services for the Santa Clarita Valley,” Bell said in a prepared statement given in response to several questions posed by The Signal.

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