The Coast News Group

Rancho Santa Fe Patrol keeping residents safe for nearly 35 years

RANCHO SANTA FE — Matt Wellhouser was a part-time sheriff’s deputy when he decided to go to work for the Rancho Santa Fe Patrol for a very short time. That was 30 years ago. Now he is the patrol chief who oversees the patrol staff of 10 who guard the Covenant 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
He came to the patrol when it was barely five years old from when it was founded in 1976, when a deputy position for the area was eliminated by the sheriff’s office. Needing some law enforcement presence, the Association formed the patrol to act as a security service for the membership.
Over the past 35 years, the patrol has responded to thousands of calls and assisted Ranch residents with a variety of problems, he said.
Wellhouser said most of the crimes he and his officers face are burglaries, thefts, vandalism and sometimes robberies and assaults along with the occasional homicide.
Along with the variety of crimes comes a variety of different people and personalities with which they must deal.
“People are people,” he said. “We try to deal with everyone fairly and I think all the officers here do a good job interacting with people. Our officers are well-trained and have excellent people skills.
“The Rancho Santa Fe Patrol is not affiliated with any other security service or alarm company,” he said. “Everyone is a former police officer or has law enforcement training.”
“Over the years we have improved our working relationship and are continually fine-tuning our procedures and policies,” Wellhouser said.
They continually take training in first aid, CPR, tactics, report writing and anything that has to do with their jobs. They recently took training on how to catch horses that sometimes throw their riders or break out of their stables or corrals (see story below).
The patrol works very closely with the Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol.
“In 1997, the California Highway Patrol established a ‘storefront’ office within the patrol office. The sheriff also uses our office as a ‘storefront’ as well,” he said.
The patrol office is located at 17056 El Fuego and is dispatched from a joint powers dispatch agency located next door. If all goes according to the plan of most of the Association members, a new home for the patrol will be built on the Osuna Ranch property.
“It is a very good place to work and we have excellent leadership from our board and our general manager,” Wellhouser said. ”We don’t have much turnover. We have people who have been here 20 years or approaching 20 years.”
As with any good
law enforcement officer, Wellhouser never misses the opportunity to remind people there are things they can do to avoid becoming victims of a crime.
“Residents are always encouraged to use their security systems, and lock doors and windows. Many of our ‘crimes’ involve ‘opportunistic’ criminals. By taking simple security measures, you reduce the chances of becoming a victim,” Wellhouser said.
“Because of the topography of the Ranch, homes are spread apart on large parcels of property. Keeping an ‘eye’ on your neighbor’s house can be difficult,” he said. “One very effective tip is to keep your eyes open for any type of suspicious persons, vehicles or activity in the area.”
He said residents should pay attention to people and vehicles when they leave
or arrive home and report anything out-of-the-ordinary to the patrol of sheriff’s department, but don’t delay because the sooner it is reported the better chance of catching the culprits, he said.
A blog giving current information has been established by the patrol and can be reached by visiting
To contact the patrol, call the business office at (858) 756-4372 or for an emergency call (858) 756-9966.