Coffee with a Cop floats tax increase for more officers

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Interim Police Chief Joe Miller listens to comments from the public during last Coffee with a Cop event at PCH and Main. Photo by Charles M. Kelly

Editor’s note: Due to a reporting error, the print version of this article contained an incorrect figure for the

Seal Beach Police personnel are working on a five year plan to hire more officers, Interim Chief Joe Miller told residents who attended a Coffee with a Cop event last Thursday on Main Street.

The roughly two-hour discussion was the first in a series featuring Chief Miller and police command staff in response to residents’ growing concerns about increasing crime in the area.

Miller asked the participants if they would support a tax increase to pay for more police officers on the force. A man in the audience said the public would support a tax increase if Miller could guarantee that the money would be spent on police officers.

Miller confirmed that robberies, burglaries and violent crimes are up.

Miller, who has spent his entire career in Seal Beach, said when he started, there were 46 cops on the force. According to Miller, there are now 31 officers with two more in the process of becoming officers. One of those two will go to the detective bureau.

Miller said the city used to have five detectives, but now has three.

The three detectives are working on 14 robbery cases. The detective bureau is working on 131 investigations.

According to Commander Steve Bowles, 50 officers from a variety of cities responded to the murder-suicide on Seventh Street in July.

Another man said safety was the number one issue in town and should be the number one budget item. “I feel vulnerable now,” he said.

District One Councilwoman Ellery Deaton said: “This council did not cut the cops.”

Deaton said that when she and her husband moved back to Seal Beach in 1993, the city was broke. She said the city manager at the time, John Bahorski, contracted out city services and cut the Police department.

“We all need more police officers. We all want more police officers,” Deaton said. But she also said that the city will have to pay for them.

Deaton said one idea was to raise beach parking fees, but a resident reported the city to the California Coastal Commission.

Commander Phil Gonshak said the five-year plan to hire more officers would be ready in December. Chief Miller described that as optimistic and said it would probably be ready in January.

Residents raised concerns about their safety. One man described a confrontation between his son and a member of a group of young men on bikes. One of them lifted his shirt, displaying a gun to the man’s son.

Seal Beach resident Nina Vafaie said Seal Beach was getting a population of visitors that wasn’t as protective of Seal Beach as residents.

Commander Phil Gonshak said that possession of small amounts of heroin or methamphetamine used to be felonies. Now police officers can only issue a citation to offenders. Gonshak advised the public to call the police non-emergency line at 562-594-7232 before posting something about crime on the Nextdoor site.

“Call 911 if you think it’s an emergency,” Gonshak said.

He also encouraged people to get to know their neighbors.

Chief Miller said he thinks the Neighbor 4 Neighbor program is great. (The Neighbor 4 Neighbor program is a crime prevention/disaster preparedness program. For details, visit www.sealbeachca.gov/Departments/Police/Public-Safety/Neighbor-4-Neighbor.)

Miller said that home security videos are “invaluable.”

He said audible alarms were the best deterrent.

He said there were safety issues with security bars on windows.

Deaton asked residents how many of them had home security cameras. “We need to support ourselves, too,” she said.

The discussion turned to parking.  Vafaie raised concern that increasing beach parking fees would drive visitors to park on the streets.

Stan Anderson said parking meters would bring in revenues. He argued that parking meters would push visitors into the beach parking lot. However, Deaton said the meters would push people into parking on residential streets. Vafaie agreed.

Deaton said the council would be looking at an ordinance to regulate RV parking.

Bowles said one of the Police Department’s goals is to implement license plate reading technology by next year.

Coffee with a Cop floats tax increase for more officers