SANTA CLARITA – A budget adjustment has allowed the force that patrols Los Angeles County’s 126 parks – 21 of them in the North County – to quadruple its presence. A sergeant and four more cars have been added to bolster the single two-officer car that was charged with patrolling parks over the hundreds of square miles that make up the county. Starting Oct. 16, officers receive regular pay for overnight shifts instead of overtime pay. The difference in cost allows for an increased force, said Deputy Chief William Nash of the county Police Department, charged with patrolling county facilities. “We understood that having only two officers covering all the parks was inappropriate,” Nash said. “We approached the Board of Supervisors and they agreed, so we were allowed to redirect existing resources.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week The department opened the graveyard shift slots to officers, who jumped at the chance to work nights to accommodate school and family schedules, Nash said. “These officers want to work this shift, which makes for a better product,” Nash said. The department is recruiting now to fill several existing openings as well as fill those day and evening shifts left open from the personnel shift. “I don’t think the community is used to seeing us out there on a 24-hour basis,” said Lt. Randy Budd, who works at the Castaic headquarters. “At least those people who are out after 11 p.m. doing nefarious things aren’t used to us being there. “It’s been a one-car situation for as long as I’ve been here, at least the last four or five years,” he continued. “Because we’re out there more frequently, our presence has had a preventive effect. We’re hoping to see a reduction in graffiti and vandalism as well as property crimes.” In the Santa Clarita valley, county police patrol four regional parks – Castaic Lake, Val Verde, William S. Hart and Placerita Canyon Nature Center – as well as nine community parks – Del Valle, Hasley Canyon, Chesebrough, Jake Kuredjian, David March, Northbridge, Pico Canyon Park, Richard Rioux and the soon-to-be dedicated Tesoro Del Valle. In the Antelope Valley, county police are responsible for Apollo, Devil’s Punchbowl, George Lane, Everett Martin, Pearblossom, Jackie Robinson, Vasquez Rocks and Steven Sorensen parks. County police officers go through a rigorous six-month training course at Rio Hondo Police Academy, graduating with the same qualifications as officers assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “We aren’t losing anything in terms of coverage,” Nash said. “As soon as recruits graduate from the academy, we put them to work.” One immediate change comes at parks that attract the homeless overnight, Nash said. “What we have noticed throughout the bureau is that there were several homeless people sleeping in the parks,” he said. “We’ve been able to reduce their presence.” Budd said that assaults and other violent crimes have not been a problem because parks are closed after dark. He echoed Nash’s concern about homeless populations who were encamped in the park, adding that there were fewer transient populations in the Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys than in other areas of the county. “I’m happy to say that we did run into a young female who had a 5-year-old child with her that we were able to get into a shelter,” he added. For information about Los Angeles County Police Department recruitment, visit their Web site at www.ops.co.la.ca.us or call (562) 940-7228. Carol Rock, (661) 257-5252 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!