Depending on results from a recent study, North Lake Tahoe could soon be graced with a stronger sheriff’s presence.
Placer County Sheriff’s Department has been conducting surveys and interviews with local lodging properties to determine whether they need to amp up staffing.
“We’re trying at this point to determine our maximum capacity of people,” said Lt. John Savage. “… We’re trying to predict [daily staff needs] with more accuracy, and in doing that we’re getting the numbers.”
Essentially the department is taking the community’s temperature and evaluating call volumes and peak population based on hotel, condominium, second-home and fractional home ownership to project department needs for the next five, 10 and 15 years, Savage said.
Currently there are about 20 Placer County deputy sheriffs based in the Tahoe area, a number that has remained steady over the last decade or longer, said Placer Deputy Dave Hunt.
Along with feedback from lodging surveys, local business associations and other community agencies will help the department achieve a staffing balance and determine what areas, if any, are receiving inadequate levels of service.
The goal in evaluating staffing levels, Savage said, is to focus not just on response services but also crime prevention. Next, the department will analyze crime statistics to help forecast future needs.
Officials with the sheriff’s department said that while they don’t feel understaffed, they are conducting the study in an effort to stay ahead of the game.
“We just really want to find out where we’re at,” Savage said.
In years past most calls made to the sheriff’s department were central to Tahoe City and Kings Beach, but in a more recent trend the Squaw Valley and Northstar areas generated the most calls for service.
Why the change? The North Shore’s night scene has shifted from Tahoe City to Squaw Valley, fractional ownership has increased at both resorts as development continues to expand, and tourists are now visiting North Lake Tahoe neighborhoods throughout the entire year, sheriff’s deputies said.
The more people congregating in certain neighborhoods or at particular bars, the higher the likelihood of problems, Savage said.
In March and April, there were 50 thefts, 20 assaults, 22 calls to 9-1-1 and 15 vehicle violations reported in Squaw Valley alone, Hunt told residents at a Squaw Valley Municipal Advisory Court meeting last month.
Following completion of the study, Placer sheriff’s may consider full-time staffing in places like Squaw Valley.
“There’s no reason for us to drive from Tahoe City out here when you deserve better service than that,” Hunt told valley residents.
But the incident numbers are not alarming, Hunt said in an interview. They just signify the increasing population of tourists and residents in the valley, he said.
“If we were able to come up with a formula that shows that staffing levels should be higher … if we were granted more deputies we would definitely add [deputies] in those areas where resources were needed,” Hunt said.
Partnership is another crucial element in successfully addressing and preventing crime in North Tahoe.
Placer County has recently formed the Community Action Team, a cooperative group representing a number of county agencies. Each month members meet to discuss pressing public issues that aren’t addressed by the member groups alone, so the different agencies can work together for the common goal of serving their constituents.
Additionally, the Placer Sheriff’s Department works closely with other government entities such as California Highway Patrol, Truckee Police Department and Nevada and Washoe county sheriff’s departments.
Because the North Lake Tahoe and Truckee area is divided among county, town and state jurisdictions, working together is key, Placer deputies said.
“Criminals don’t have any boundaries,” Hunt said.
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