LA County Sheriff’s Liaison Sgt. Christopher Soderlund hits one year in Malibu

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LA County Sheriff's Liaison Sgt. Christopher Soderland, who just completed a full year at the job, said Malibu is making strides toward becoming a safer city. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT

16-year LASD veteran gives update on safety, crime, and homelessness, says statistics improving locally

With just one year on the job as Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Malibu liaison, Sgt. Christopher Soderlund said Malibu is turning a corner toward being a safer city with the help of concerned residents.

The 39-year-old sergeant said despite a difficult year with deaths on Pacific Coast Highway, including a suicide traffic collision March 29, safety on the roadway should be improving with extra patrols by LASD and the California Highway Patrol. 

“We’ve seen the dangers on PCH that came to a head with the deaths of the four Pepperdine students in October. Since then the city, Sheriff’s Department, and various public agencies have been collaborating trying to make PCH safer,” Soderlund said. “We know residents have been beating the drum to make PCH safer and I just didn’t realize how long they had been demanding change.” 

The 16-year LASD veteran has only been assigned to the local Malibu/Lost Hills Station for four years. He’s since been immersed in safety studies and “taken a deep dive” into the statistics on collisions, injuries and fatalities and “how deadly the road is.”

Soderlund’s first year as liaison has been challenging, but he said, “I think we have really made a difference on PCH since the deaths of the Pepperdine students. We’ve put enforcement at the forefront and education through social media and I hope citizens are seeing the difference we’re making.” 

The sheriff’s department has issued 1,340 more moving violations on PCH in 2023 than in 2022.

“Having more enforcement will lead to more citations, but honestly it’s a drop in the bucket because Malibu is 21 miles long and we only have so many deputies and CHP officers out at a time. We can’t be everywhere at once,” Soderlund commented. “Speeding is our number one focus right now. I wish we had more officers, but we’re doing the best we can with what we have.”

A success Soderlund pointed to is that the homeless count in Malibu is dramatically lower. From a high of more than 100 unhoused individuals last year there are now 51. During the pandemic, as many as 200 unhoused people were in Malibu. 

“We’ve made a real impact collaborating with the city’s outreach team, the Sheriff’s HOST (Homeless Outreach Services Team), and other nonprofits,” said the sergeant. 

Soderlund attends the Malibu Public Safety meetings and gives statistics on local crime. The stats have improved under his watch. 

“Year over year from 2023 compared to 2022, crime is down 1.7 percent overall in Malibu,” he said. “There was a significant reduction in grand thefts and petty thefts.”

“We’re rolling out our Real Time Disaster and Crime Center,” Soderlund reminded. The LASD initiative is a registry system where businesses and private residences can enroll their cameras into a system. If a crime occurs, LASD can pull up a map that indicates what cameras are registered in the area. Then through the registry messages are sent asking camera owners to check their feeds and upload suspicious footage. Those wishing to register their cameras can go to www.connectlosangelescounty.org. There is no cost and sharing does not mean the department will have access to your cameras.

“I think that the cooperation between the city, Sheriff’s Department and everybody involved in public agencies are working very effectively,” Soderlund stated. “I know sometimes there’s a lot of bureaucracy and red tape, but our captain, Jennifer Seetoo, she is an innovator who thinks outside the box. She is a real go-getter on trying to effect change as soon as possible. I’m following her lead. She is very determined and I think it shows in the collaboration between everybody. We are effecting change and so the credit has to go to everybody involved because without everybody’s participation and collaboration none of this could be possible. So, I’d like to thank everybody involved.”

And the Malibu liaison would encourage more people to get involved by becoming an LA County Sheriff’s deputy. The LASD Malibu substation, located at the Santa Monica College Malibu campus, is still not open due to staffing shortages. 

“We are actively hiring. If anyone wants to apply they can go online to LASD.org,” Soderlund said. “Tell your family, tell your friends. It’s a great job. Great benefits, great pay and we need everybody we can.”