‘go-to guy’ for Malibu
The newly appointed Malibu sheriff’s liaison has 22 years experience in law enforcement and says communication is key to his new job.
By Vive DeCou / Special to The Malibu Times
At his desk in the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, Watch Commander Lt. Steven D. Wilson picks up the phone and dials the Malibu city manager’s office. He is calling to report a fatal accident that just occurred on the city’s roads. A driver with an oversize vehicle and driving illegally on Kanan-Dume Road, lost control and plunged into the hillside at Pacific Coast Highway.
“Communication is a big skill for this job,” Wilson said. “I have to keep people apprised of what is going on. City politicians want to know right away if it is something that could affect them.”
As the new sheriff’s liaison, or SAL (service area lieutenant), for the city of Malibu, keeping in contact with city officials is just one of Wilson’s new responsibilities. He also regularly attends City Council and Public Safety Commission meetings and stays informed on local issues.
“I am the go-to guy for the city,” Wilson said.
Energetic and confident, the 46-year-old lieutenant says he has the right stuff for the job.
“I bring a lot of local experience and a lot of institutional knowledge to the position,” he said. “I have an understanding of the geography, politics and issues of the area.”
Wilson grew up in Woodland Hills and now lives in Thousand Oaks with his wife and young son. Aside from spending time with his family when not working, Wilson serves as a Boy Scout leader. He has a bachelor’s degree from CSUN and was considering starting up an outdoor adventure company with a partner when the Sheriff’s Department caught his eye. The department has an emergency services detail, which performs rescues involving such skills as scuba diving and mountain climbing, and also includes a SWAT team. Although he never worked for that particular part of the department, Wilson has worked in law enforcement for 22 years, 12 of those years in the Lost/Hills Malibu area. His added duties as liaison for the city of Malibu began last December.
Wilson said the strategies the sheriff’s department is using to keep Malibu safe have been working and he intends to continue with them. He said the crime rate was down 18 percent in 2005 from the previous year and traffic incident rates are falling too. Wilson says this positive change is due to increased efforts and not added staff.
“We are always trying to encourage employees to be more proactive,” he said. “We want them to get out there and enforce traffic laws more vigorously.”
Beach patrols are also a focus for the lieutenant, who said he believes they are the key to decreasing fatal accidents caused by beachgoers who drink and drive home on winding canyon roads. Officers patrol local beaches on foot, ATV and horseback to keep the beaches peaceful and curb gang and alcohol activity.
While Wilson has a special relationship with the city of Malibu, his primary responsibility is as watch commander for the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station. While on duty he is in charge of the operations for the entire station. Opened in September 1991, the station is more than 35,000 square feet and comes complete with a heliport and a jail that can hold up to 45 people. Officers work in varied capacities in departments such as the background unit, detective bureau and narcotics. Downstairs is a new state-of-the-art exercise facility paid for with donations to the station’s booster club.
His duties as watch commander keep Wilson near his desk unless there is a major incident and he is needed in the field. Such an event occurred last Wednesday when Wilson was called to the scene of a brush fire that began after a SUV was ignited in the mountains above Corral Canyon. As the incident commander for law enforcement, Wilson was in charge of orchestrating the Sheriff Department’s involvement. Those duties included coordinating the voluntary resident evacuation and providing security for evacuees. Road closures were introduced to allow for efficient passage of Fire Department vehicles.
“Yesterday’s fire was a pretty low-key event,” Wilson said. “The Fire Department and Sheriff’s Department threw a lot of resources on it early and put the fire down fast.”
Wilson said that procedures are always improving as lessons about handling emergencies are learned. Some department personnel have learned through disasters like Hurricane Katrina about emergency preparedness.
“The personnel at this station have a lot of expertise because many have been here for a long time,” Wilson said.
As for serving Malibu, Wilson said: “I support the sheriff’s vision to establish our presence back in the city. I share the vision for a new civic center with a Sheriff’s Station. We are all working on getting that to move forward.”