Editorial from Sheriff Lee Baca

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca authored this editorial Wednesday regarding the California budget:

How the STATE OF CALIFORNIA budget affects Los Angeles County public safety

by Sheriff Lee Baca

Our economic problems and California’s budget crisis has impacted every level of government: state, county, and city. Painful cuts have been and will continue to be made in all areas. Inevitably up and down the state, counties and local governments are looking at another year of reduced budgets and additional cuts. I write this to share with you what impacts these cuts will have on public safety and on our communities.

Legislators wrote and passed Senate Bill 18 (SBX3 18) which took effect Monday. This measure was written as a way for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to decrease its budget by cutting the amount of time sentenced inmates serve in prison by increasing sentencing credits for jail and prison inmates. It also removes certain prisoners who would normally be released on a “supervised parole”, meaning the parolee would have a parole agent and a detailed program of re-entry and places them on unsupervised parole better known as “summary parole.”

While a firm number of parolees in Los Angeles County eligible for the unsupervised parole is not yet known, CDCR is reviewing over 7,000 Los Angeles County parolees. When the release occurs, the offender will be unsupervised, released without a plan or program for proper and safe re-entry into our communities and with no accountability. Fortunately, for the residents of Los Angeles County, we are working together with the Board of Supervisors, various county public health and human services departments, and other local law enforcement agencies in attempting to reach out to these parolees and letting them know of the services that are out there to help them and give them the support they need. This is by no means an adequate replacement for supervised parole but it’s better than providing no help at all.

Unfortunately, in the state’s 2010-11 budget and a Federal Court Panel’s mandate, there are plans for even more serious cuts to the CDCR budget that will have an immediate negative impact on the public safety of our communities. Under the budget proposal, at least 11 current crimes in which a person could be convicted of a felony and sent to state prison, including such crimes, as grand theft, receiving stolen property, possession of methamphetamine, and auto theft, would be changed to an “administrative felony” in which the person would still be convicted of a felony, but he or she would be sentenced to 366 days and placed in the county jail. Thus, the proposal shifts the responsibility of these inmates from the state onto the local county jail system.

While this will certainly create a savings for the state, it is irresponsible to shift the costs to counties.

Additionally, this will have a serious negative impact on public safety. The Los Angeles County Jail system is already a severely overcrowded system that has population controls placed on it by a federal court. If the Governor’s proposal were in fact to become law, as of today, this would mean the Los Angeles County Jail would have to house approximately 1,900 additional inmates that would currently be sentenced to state prison. Since we are already at capacity, this would force me to comply with the federal court order and reduce the amount of time one spends in jail to a fraction of what they were sentenced to. Again, the state’s proposal clearly shifts the state problem onto counties and local communities.

Over the last decade, I and other local law enforcement leaders have worked closely with the Governor and legislature to deal with various public safety issues and I fully expect to continue that stance this year. However, I am increasingly concerned about proposals related to parole, county jails and increased local responsibility at a time when we are struggling to fund and manage our current responsibilities and inmate populations. We urge careful scrutiny of these proposals and that the Governor and legislature weigh fiscal benefit against public safety impact before making further changes this year.

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Beauty shop robbed in West Covina

WEST COVINA — A gunman robbed a West Covina beauty shop Wednesday, police said.
The crime occurred just before 1:10 p.m. at Sally’s Beauty Supply in the 2500 block of East Workman Avenue, West Covina police officials said.
The robber was described as a black man, about 6 feet 2 inches tall and about 180 pounds, West Covina police Lt. Tommy Garcia said in a written statement.
He entered the store and asked an employee for a specific product, Garcia said.
Once the register was opened, “he brandished a small-caliber, semi-automatic pistol and demanded the money in the cash register,” the lieutenant said.
The robber was last seen fleeing the area in a white SUV, police added.
Garcia said investigators were looking into the possibility the same robber may be responsible for other recent crimes in the area.

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Hacienda Heights Del Taco robbed

HACIENDA HEIGHTS — A man used a handgun to rob a fast-food restaurant late Tuesday, authorities said.
The robbery was reported just before 10 p.m. at Del Taco, 2395 S. Hacienda Blvd., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Steven Katz said in a written statement.
The robber, described as a black man between 25 and 30 years old, brandished a handgun and demanded money from an employee, Katz said.
He was last seen fleeing south on Hacienda Boulevard on foot, the lieutenant added.
Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s Industry Station. Tips may remain anonymous.

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Sheriff to investigate why bailiff handcuffed court spokeswoman

From the Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles County sheriff’s spokesman
says the department has begun an internal affairs investigation into
why a deputy acting as a bailiff detained and handcuffed a Superior
Court spokeswoman inside a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.

spokesman Steve Whitmore says deputy public information officer Vania
Stuelp was handcuffed Tuesday after she refused to
leave the area usually occupied by attorneys and would not follow the
deputy’s directions. He says Stuelp was not arrested.

says Stuelp walked into the well area to inform a French television
crew they could not film in a certain area of the court.

Court was not in session at the time.

Whitmore says a sheriff’s sergeant arrived recognized her as the court spokesperson and directed that she be released.

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Men wounded in El Monte shooting

EL MONTE — Two men were shot and wounded Sunday in El Monte, authorities said.
The shooting took place about 6:45 p.m. at Cogswell Road and Elliot Avenue, El Monte police Lt. Ken Alva said.
One of the victims, a known gang member, was shot in the upper back and was believed to be the intended target of the attack, Alva said. The other man appeared to be a bystander with no gang ties and was struck in the leg by a stray bullet.
Both wounded men appeared to be in their 30s and were hospitalized in stable condition, he added.
The victims said no words were spoken prior to the unprovoked attack.
The men told police they did not see their attacker, but witnesses said a white Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck fled the area after the shots were fired.
The investigation is being turned over to gang detectives, Alva said, though a motive in the shooting was not known Sunday.

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Deputies jail teenage auto theft suspects in Industry

INDUSTRY — Sheriff’s deputies arrested two teenage gang members on suspicion of stealing a car late Friday, authorities said.
The boys, ages 16 and 17, were booked on suspicion of auto theft, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Steven Katz said in a written statement. Their names were not released due to their age.
Deputies spotted a stolen car in the area of Nelson and Orange avenues about 10 p.m., the lieutenant said.
The deputies followed the car to the parking lot of a nearby liquor store, he said, where the teen suspects fled on foot.
They were found in the area a short time later, Katz said, and taken to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey.
Officials added that the car had been reported stolen from Monrovia on Wednesday.

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Man suspected of DUI, murder after double-fatal crash in La Verne

LA VERNE — An allegedly intoxicated driver crashed his car into a tree while fleeing the scene of another minor crash early Saturday, killing his two passengers, authorities said.
Alan McConnell, 27, of Covina was booked on suspicion of murder, vehicular manslaughter, felony driving under the influence and hit-and-run, La Verne police Lt. Nick Paz said. He was unhurt in the crash.
Renee Hardy, 20, of Alta Loma and Telassie Dague, 22, of Alta Loma died in the crash, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Investigator Jim Blacklock said.
They were passengers in the 2000 Pontiac Grand Am McConnell was driving, officials said.
McConnell was allegedly involved in a minor collision with another car shortly before 12:45 a.m. on Foothill Boulevard at Damien Avenue just prior to the fatal crash less than half a mile to the east at Foothill Boulevard and Wheeler Avenue, police said.
“He hit the curb when he was fleeing eastbound (on Foothill Boulevard), lost control, hit a center divider and a tree on the center divider, and came to rest on the north curb,” Paz said.
The woman in the rear passenger seat died at the scene, Paz said, while the woman in the front passenger seat was rushed to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
Initial tests indicated McConnell’s blood-alcohol level appeared to be over the legal limit, and he failed a field sobriety test, officials said. Police were also looking into the possibility he was under the influence of drugs.
Official records indicate McConnell has had numerous run-ins with the law prior to Saturday’s crash.
McConnell was charged with drunken driving and driving with a suspended license in December of last year in Pomona Superior Court, court records show. Information on the status of that case was not available Saturday.
He was also arrested on Tuesday and before that on Jan. 12 by deputies from the sheriff’s San Dimas station, according to sheriff’s booking records.
He was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of driving with a suspended license, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Alex Vargas said. It was not clear Saturday what the Jan. 12 arrest was for.
In September of 2008, he was convicted of driving with a suspended license in Pomona Superior Court, records show, and he was convicted of marijuana possession in December of 2001.
According to sheriff’s booking records, McConnell was being held in lieu of more than $2.1 million. Information on his initial court appearance was not available.

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Parolee bitten by police dog, jailed in East Valinda

EAST VALINDA — A  man with suspected gang ties was arrested on suspicion of making criminal threats and parole violations following a search Friday, authorities said.
Alejandro Melendrez, 27, underwent surgery and remained hospitalized Saturday after being bit by a police dog during his arrest, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Dwight Miley said. His city of residency was not available, but he was believed to have tied to an East Valinda street gang.
The incident began about 1:20 p.m. when deputies spotted Melendrez, a parolee who was wanted by sheriff’s gang detectives on suspicion of making terrorist threats, inside a car in the 200 block of Sandalwood Street in East Valinda, Lt. Steven Katz said.
When deputies approached, Melendrez allegedly fled and hid in a nearby garage, Katz said.
When Melendrez refused to surrender, the lieutenant said, sheriff’s went in with a police dog and arrested him.
He suffered a “significant” dog bite during the arrest, Miley added.
Melendrez was being held without bail, officials said. Information on his initial court date was not available.

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Woman struck in head, robbed in South El Monte

SOUTH EL MONTE — A man attacked a woman and robbed her of her purse Friday in South El Monte, authorities said.
The robbery was reported about 7:30 p.m. near Peck Road and Durfee Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Roberta Granek.
A robber, described as a Latino man in his 20s, struck the woman in the head with an unknown object and fled with her purse, the sergeant said.
The woman refused hospitalization, Granek added.

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Woman kicked in face, robbed in Arcadia grocery store parking lot

ARCADIA — Two men kicked a woman in the face and robbed her in broad daylight Wednesday in the parking lot of a grocery store, police said.
The crime occurred about 3:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the 99 Ranch Market, 1300 South Golden West Avenue, Arcadia police said in a written statement.
The woman was walking through the parking lot bringing groceries to her car when she was grabbed from behind, police said.
“A male suspect kicked her in the face and grabbed her purse, running off with a second suspect,” according to the police statement.
It was not clear Friday evening if the woman was hospitalized due to the attack.
The first robber was described as an Asian man in his 40s, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, clean-shaven, with short black hair, police said. He wore a purple and red jacket and black pants.
The second robber was described only as male.
Another unsuccessful robbery was reported in the same area late last month.
In that case, a 57-year-old man was pistol-whipped by a robber — described as a white man wearing a dark-colored parka — about 2 p.m. on Dec. 30 in an alley to the rear of the 1300 block of South Golden West Avenue, police said.
The man fought with the robber, officials said, who ultimately fled empty-handed. The victim did not wish to be hospitalized.
It was not clear Friday if Wednesday’s robbery was believed to be connected to the one last month. 
Anyone with information is asked to call Arcadia police detectives at (626) 574-5160.

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