Lompoc council members agreed to explore several measures aimed at boosting safety in the city, including creating a registry of surveillance cameras and launching neighborhood watch programs.
On Tuesday night, the council discussed several suggestions made by the Public Safety Commission during an emotional Oct. 17 meeting where the mother of a recent homicide victim pleaded for action.
Last year, Lompoc recorded seven homicides, including 15-year-old Erik Villa Vargas, who was fatally shot in October, and an Army soldier, Spc. Marlon Brumfield, 22, who was gunned down while home on leave from Germany.
In response to the increase in homicides and other crimes, public safety commissioners sought to meet more often along with asking for a program to help residents start neighborhood watch groups and a registration list of surveillance cameras at local businesses and residences.
“If it came to where the council has to make a decision for the public safety commission, I’m going to support everything the public safety commission is recommending,” Councilman Dirk Starbuck said. “That will make it short and simple here.”
Maria Aguiniga, a public safety commissioner, explained the reasoning behind the recommendations.
“I have many community members coming up to me, saying we want to do more and we want to be involved,” she said, adding residents were fed up with armed teenagers running through neighborhoods and gunshots that prohibit children from playing outside in the afternoon.
Other cities on the Central Coast have already implemented programs to register homes and businesses with surveillance cameras so police can contact them when a crime happens nearby.
“A lot of people are in favor of this because cameras become the witnesses and they don’t have to be out there exposing themselves,” she said, adding residents hesitate to speak to law enforcement offices due to fear of retaliation.
The commission currently meets quarterly, but suggested changing that to monthly in the wake of the increase in crime.
But the request to boost the number of meetings came as the council had directed staff to explore the fate of various commissions, including cost for staff time to prepare and attend meetings.
“I think we need to allow some flexibility to address that ongoing cost, because I don’t want take away those funds that can be used for implementing some of these other programs, or buying more cameras and getting them installed faster,” Mayor Jenelle Osborne said.
The council agreed to refer the item back to commissioners to provide recommendations for potential cost savings if meetings occur more often.
Two other items were referred to staff to investigate what it would take to create a private camera registration program and explore how residents could create neighborhood watch programs.
One suggestion provided by the panel has already been launched.
Commissioners also had asked the council to expand the number of surveillance cameras, with the first 12 installed last month at locations suggested by police officers, City Manager Jim Throop said.
The city has a goal of installing 80 to 100 throughout the city.
Staff has started replacing some older cameras with new high-definition versions, and will resume adding the surveillance tools at other locations suggested by police, he said.
“We’ll just keep going until we hit our goal of eighty to a hundred cameras,” Throop said.
Aguiniga said reports about installation of cameras provided peace of mind to residents.
“Lompoc needs to do a better of job of informing the residents, hey, we have their back, we know what’s going on and we’re working on it,” she said.