Crime rate down, Malibu Bar Association told

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In an evening dubbed “Update on Law and Order in the West District,” the Malibu Bar Association recently heard about local control of crime and courts. Speaking to a packed private room of attorneys and judges at PierView Cafe, Municipal Court Judge Lawrence Mira outlined efforts of West District judges to keep processing of local cases in the area, in the wake of last year’s legislation on judicial consolidation. Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Capt. Bill McSweeney claimed proactive policing, especially in traffic incidents, was lowering Malibu’s crime rate.

In explaining the “enormous impact” of last November’s ballot proposition 220 on assimilation of the states municipal courts into the superior courts, Mira said “almost draconian” pressure will be put on Los Angeles County courts to unify within the next two or three years. This includes pressure on Santa Monica and Malibu judges to agree to have local cases processed at the new courthouse being built near Los Angeles International Airport. Every court will process all cases except juvenile and probate, Mira noted

Mira predicted Malibu will stay the way it is. “We are driven by community interest,” Mira said. “The community wants local processing of cases; they do not want to travel.”

On behalf of the sheriffs, McSweeney said,”I have a lot of good news for regular folks. We’re really trying to work you folks out of a job.” Noting that although Malibu was relatively crime-free in its first six years, his department was “not happy” with its low profile, custodial capacity. “We’re trying to find problems and search for trouble,” he said.

People’s main concern was traffic, McSweeney added. “There is not a block in this 200 square mile district, including 25 miles of Pacific Coast Highway, where residents are not upset with speed and traffic issues. We’re going to be traffic cops.”

The proactive approach was working, McSweeney continued. Although traffic tickets don’t bring in much money to the city, the increased number of traffic tickets deputies have written have lowered the number of traffic accidents 50 percent and brought crime rates down in general.

As to specifics: there were 1,025 incidents of common street crimes the year after the city incorporated and 358 last year; assaults dropped from 184 to 22; residential burglary from 100-plus to 40; and grand theft auto went from 136 to 19.

While noting that the improved economy and three-strikes legislation have lowered crime rates nationally, “Here it is good policing,” McSweeney said. “Moving around, being visible raises people’s confidence and signals that we want order.”

The association also installed new officers and board members: Dale Motley, president; Kathy Greco, vice president; Ron Stackler, secretary-treasurer; Dan Martin, parliamentarian; and directors Jeannette Torrel Maginnis; Dave Ogden; Dale Schafer; Robin Senter; Todd Sloan and Carolyn Wallace.