SOLANA BEACH — Distracted drivers, school traffic and sharrows were among the issues Solana Beach residents brought up during an Aug. 14 Sheriff’s Coffee with the Community at La Colonia Community Center.
Capt. Robert Haley began the meeting by sharing information on the recently created crime suppression team that focuses on crime trends and prolific offenders.
One of those trends is an increase in property crimes, which he said are primarily narcotics driven.
“People purchasing narcotics are not going to work from 9 to 5 and then going out to buy methamphetamines or cocaine,” Haley said. “They’re breaking into your vehicles and houses and using the profits to buy drugs.”
A new law aimed at reducing overcrowding in state prisons is creating a challenge for local law enforcement officers, he added.
Passage of Assembly Bill 109 means nonviolent, nonsexual, nonhabitual offenders now serve less time in county jails.
“A significant number of folks we arrest are AB109ers,” Haley said. “For those narcotics-driven property crimes, right now they’re not spending a significant amount of time in custody.”
Although the department is currently focusing on those crimes, Haley said the most frequent complaint he gets from Solana Beach residents are traffic related.
Some of the eight attendees wanted to know what was being done to address motorists who text while driving.
Haley said that behavior should be reported immediately to the nonemergency line at (858) 565-5200. Although the department receives an annual grant to fund officers who are specifically looking for distracted drivers, it will likely take legislative action with more severe penalties to curb the behavior, Haley said.
“Unfortunately, until they hurt or kill someone or themselves, they just don’t get it,” officer Emery Wallace said.
Kristine Schindler, a member of Bike Walk Solana Beach, wanted to know what law enforcement thought about the shared bike lanes, known as sharrows, recently installed along Coast Highway 101.
“It’s a great concept,” Haley said, adding that he has received reports they are used improperly.
“Some people think it’s a giant bike lane, which causes people in vehicles to get mad,” he said. Bicyclists are supposed to ride as far to the right as possible and only use a large part of the sharrow when they can’t safely do that.
“But we haven’t received any significant complaints other than when people try to make a statement and ride five-people wide,” he said.
There were also concerns about youngsters riding skateboards while holding onto car handles, primarily on Nardo Avenue and in the St. James Catholic Church parking lot.
Haley said that behavior should immediately be reported to the nonemergency line.
With school about to start, there were also concerns about traffic during drop-off and pickup times. Haley said city officials and law enforcement are working to address the problems and planned to meet with school officials before classes got under way.
Deputies said they would follow up on a recommendation to have officers at back-to-school night to provide suggestions and answer questions from parents.
One resident wanted to know what law enforcement was doing to address marijuana smoking during concerts at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
Haley said it is increasingly difficult to enforce the law because “an unusually large number of people have medical marijuana cards and it’s a low-level violation now.”
The hour-long meeting also included a brief discussion on driving while intoxicated. Wallace said in 2011 there were a combined 600 DUI arrests in Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas. He said 70 percent of those arrested live in one of those three cities.
About 18 percent were 20 or younger and 21 percent were repeat offenders. Less than 1 percent were military members, Wallace said.
“I still can’t believe, with all the promotions and information out there, that people still do that,” Haley said. “If you have more than one drink, don’t drive.”
According to the event flier, community outreach is a top priority of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
The meetings, which are held about every three months, give residents an opportunity to chat with the captain and other law enforcement officials in a casual setting.
The first such meeting in Solana Beach was held in May on a midweek morning. About 20 people attended.