Bird Rock Council debates private security option

At the Bird Rock Community Council (BRCC) meeting July 5 at La Jolla Masonic Lodge, the board and community members heard the pros and cons of contracting private security to help deter crime in the neighborhood.

BRCC member Ron Fineman suggested National Public Safety (NPS) as a possible patrol firm, and introduced its director at a forum June 30 at Chase Bank in Bird Rock.

Considered a “little brother” to the police, NPS would take the “low priority” calls San Diego Police Department does not have the manpower to respond to, such as suspicious persons in the area and car break-ins. If warranted, NPS would hand the case over to the police. In other neighborhoods where NPS has a presence, such as Ocean Beach, residents report faster response times to potential and actual problems than when they called San Diego Police. Understaffing of dispatch and call center officers has created citywide delays on the non-emergency line.

Some residents believe having the presence of private security could discourage criminal activity before it occurs, and provide someone to approach or investigate suspicious persons, as an alternative to calling the police. But before the patrol gets boots on the ground, residents would need to establish a funding mechanism and determine who would run it.

The Bird Rock Neighborhood Watch chair said she tried to launch a private security patrol 10 years ago, and came upon several roadblocks. “There are people who might want to pay, but how do you determine where (private security) would go in the neighborhood, and how much time do they spend on each block?” she posed. “If you have five people on your block that paid for the service, but I only have one person on my block, do I get less observation than you? And what if the block in-between doesn’t pay? They still get the benefit of the presence of private security. It’s not something I’m against, but it’s not something I can participate in.”

She added that the BRCC could not be the organization managing the funds that would pay for the services, because BRCC manages the Maintenance Assessment District and there would be a conflict.

Member Greg Wadsworth noted, “It is conceivable to think that there could be a group of impacted residents that would be willing to pay and have the whole community benefit as a private group.”

To gauge community interest and what people are willing to pay for, resident John Buche — who said came to the meeting just to hear more on the private security topic — said he would help establish a website for those who cannot attend BRCC meetings, and hoped for a surge of critical mass.

With a small group forming to get things started and fine-tune the details of patrol and costs, the issue will return to the BRCC at its Sept. 6 meeting, location TBD.

In other BRCC news

Bird Rock Picnic Aug. 2: The Bird Rock Joint Use Park on the Bird Rock Elementary School campus, 5371 La Jolla Hermosa Ave. will be the new venue for the annual Community Picnic, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2. Beaumont’s Eatery will provide the food — and the picnic ends when food runs out. Admission is $10, exact amount in cash is requested.

Midway Bluff stabilization complete: A project to restore the eroded Midway Bluff overlook was recently completed, but orange netting remains to give the new vegetation time and space to establish. BRCC Treasurer Barbara Dunbar explained, “I know not everyone likes it, but it needs to be there to protect the landscaping. It’s hoped the fencing will come down at the end of August, but that’s contingent on whether the landscaping takes hold. The seating and viewing area is open.”

BRCC meets 6 p.m. first Tuesdays at Bird Rock locations to be announced.