The Coast News Group
Capt. Theresa Adams-Hydar responds to questions during a Sept.23 Coffee with the Sheriff at Powerhouse Community Center. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
Capt. Theresa Adams-Hydar responds to questions during a Sept.23 Coffee with the Sheriff at Powerhouse Community Center. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

Traffic violations by motorists, cyclists are main concerns

DEL MAR— Motorists and bicyclists who ignore traffic laws were the main concerns of the dozen or so residents who attended Coffee with the Sheriff, a one-hour question-and-answer session held Sept. 23 at Powerhouse Community Center.

Capt. Theresa Adams-Hydar and a panel of other officers said the biggest challenge with enforcement is a shortage of manpower due to a lack of funding.

“I’d love to be able to put an echelon of deputies out there for bike enforcement,” Sgt. Joe Tomaiko said, adding he would also like to strategically park patrol cars so cyclists would see them and know they have to stop at traffic signals and stop signs.

“We’re trying to address the problems the best we can with what we have to work with,” he said.

One resident suggested writing more citations so word would get out to the biking community that riders will be ticketed in Del Mar — something Tomaiko said he would be “happy to do.”

“We will be more than happy to remind them it’s their responsibility to stop,” he said.

Addressing complaints about motorists who speed through town and roll through stop signs and traffic signals, Adams-Hydar said the traffic deputy could be assigned to different areas at different times.

But that may result in no one policing the streets when bars close and intoxicated drivers may be getting behind the wheel of a car, she said.

“This is what I’m dealing with,” Adams-Hydar said. “I’m trying to think out of the box to help.”

Del Mar has contracted with the Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement services since its inception in 1959 and currently pays about $1.7 million annually.

For that the city gets one patrol deputy 24/7, a traffic officer weekdays, a full-time detective and regional services such as SWAT, aerial support, search and rescue, the crime lab and bomb and arson.

The traffic deputy covers less than half of the daytime traffic hours during the week.

Adding another full-time traffic deputy would cost about $250,000 a year. Adams-Hydar suggested hiring a temporary deputy without “all the overhead,” such as benefits for six months to see what impact, if any, an additional officer would have on violations.

City officials said that would cost about $150,000 during the trial period.

“I think this is an option you should really look at,” Adams-Hydar said.

Resident Jim Benedict, a member of the Finance Committee tasked with researching law enforcement options, said it’s an alternative worth exploring but only if the cost remained at $150,000 after the trial period.

If the additional officer had a positive impact, the city likely wouldn’t be able to afford to fund a full-time position, he said.

Theresa Borges, administrative assistant with the Encinitas Sheriff’s Station, said the cost would increase after the trial period.

Mark Delin, assistant city manager, said the proposal is “intriguing, but we would need to look at what the sheriff can actually provide.”

“This is something that we’ll discuss with the sheriff as a part of our overall city safety program, and if it looks feasible in terms of cost and scheduling, we would take this to council as an option,” Delin added. “We will also look at redeploying the current traffic deputy to different locations and hours to address some of the new locations mentioned as enforcement issues.”

Benedict said his group is also looking into expanding the park ranger service or hiring a community service officer, options that are “significantly, significantly less expensive” than Adams-Hydar’s suggestion, he said.

Benedict said he didn’t have exact figures for those options yet since they are still being vetted.

Overall, Benedict said he was pleased with the turnout at the Coffee with the Sheriff.

“Communication is king,” he said. “Any time you can get the sheriffs out to talk to the community, I think that’s very good, especially if we can do it quarterly, which is what they’re talking about. That’s not happened before.”

Officers said they are also creating a bicycle task force and working with bike shops to better educate cyclists about sharrows and current laws.

“We hear what you’re saying and we want to help,” Adams-Hydar said in response to the concerns raised. “This won’t fix itself overnight.

“We need feedback about (where to place officers and when),” she added, noting the decisions will be made with input from residents and city staff.

“I don’t do it in a little bubble all by myself,” Adams-Hydar said.