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Sheriff's Substation posts 'most productive' year ever in 2009

A ramped up menu of special operations, including gang compliance, parole and probation checks, DUI roving patrol, and heavy focus on problem-oriented policing projects led the Fallbrook Sheriff’s Substation to having the “most productive year ever” in 2009, said Lt. Phil Brust.

“I’m proud of the fact that our patrol deputies made over 1,200 arrests in 2009; that’s the most arrests ever made in a single year here,” said Brust. In 2008, 1,107 arrests were made by deputies working the Fallbrook command area.

Reflecting on the composite of last year’s crime statistics, which Brust called preliminary and un-official, he said the numbers, when finalized by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) will show an increase in aggravated assaults, which he attributes to a marked increase in domestic violence.

“Those numbers are mostly domestic violence assault cases; they are not random acts of violence,” explained Brust.

When asked if he thought the challenging economy in 2009 may have placed unusual stress on domestic relationships, Brust replied “I don’t buy into that [theory]. I think it’s just a trend and could very well go down in 2010.”

Brust confirmed that more men were arrested in Fallbrook on domestic violence charges in 2009 than women, but he countered that by saying, “I also think men are more reluctant to call and report violence.”

Brust said no homicides occurred in the Fallbrook command in 2009, but there were a “couple” of stabbings.

“These were gang member on gang member situations and these individuals are all in custody,” he explained.

Of the successful law enforcement year, Brust attributed it to the level of commitment made by his current staff of patrol deputies to the community.

“[These deputies] take it personally when something happens in their beat,” said Brust.

Allotted five patrol deputies per shift, a bureau of detectives and support personnel, Brust said his staff has 140 square miles to cover and close to 60,000 people to protect.

“We’ve always done more with less,” said Brust.

Property crimes, overall, were down in 2009, Brust said, adding that most were still crimes of opportunity.

“In many cases, doors or windows were left unlocked,” said Brust.

Although some parts of 2009 were fraught with vehicle burglaries, Brust said arrests made by his deputies quickly sent those numbers into decline, lending credence to the fact that a couple of perpetrators were committing numerous crimes.

“We think the two suspects currently in custody were responsible for a quite a number of those [vehicle burglaries],” said Brust.

The end of a commendable year doesn’t mean Brust is taking a comfortable approach to 2010. There are new goals to go with the new year, specifically concerning alcohol, drug use, and curfew violation in the community.

“One of my big focuses this year is to curb underage drinking in this community,” he explained. “We are going to hit it heavy this year.”

Brust said his plan includes enforcement of the social host ordinance, more education of the young people and special patrols to areas where kids congregate.

“We don’t need another dead kid on our roadways,” he said.

Deputies will continue to focus on drug-related crimes as well, Brust said. “[Drugs] are out there – in our schools and community and we are doing everything we can to combat that.”

Brust said both Fallbrook High School and Potter Junior High School worked with law enforcement to begin routine drug-sniffing canine patrols through locker areas in 2009.

“In the first sweep, we didn’t find anything, but in the last one, in December, at Fallbrook High School, we did,” he said. “We are going to continue to be proactive about it.”

DUI saturation patrols have proved very successful in the community, Brust said, especially with the added grant from the State of California for more enforcement on State Route 76.

“Since August, there have not been any fatalities on [SR] 76 – and that’s all the way from the coast to Valley Center,” he said. “The six months prior to that there were six fatalities. We’re very proud of that.”

Better equipment has also proved successful for local deputies, Brust said.

“Each patrol deputy is equipped with a semi-automatic file, a bean bag shotgun, and a taser,” he said. “In the rural area, sometimes only one deputy is on a situation and you need that type of equipment at your disposal.”

Other proactive measures that have paid off for the Sheriff’s department include the increase in Neighborhood Watch programs being implemented in Fallbrook neighborhoods and the participation of more apartment owners and managers in the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program.

“We certified four more apartment complexes this year as crime-free and a lot more communities into the Neighborhood Watch program,” said Brust. “That’s a sign that more people are being actively aware of what is going on around them.”

When asked what else is needed in 2010 to make the Fallbrook community an even safer one, Brust immediately voiced one thing.

“Traffic is a big deal,” he said. “We are working with the CHP (California Highway Patrol) to do more traffic enforcement here. We have pointed out problem areas and feel we are getting their support.”

Brust said he is a “big advocate” of driver’s license checkpoints and feels they present a unique opportunity.

“There’s no better way [to have direct involvement with the community] than talking one-on-one with people as they come through a checkpoint,” he said.

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