LASD, CHP hold joint operation to target speeding drivers on Pacific Coast Highway

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On Dec. 27, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD) and CHP West Valley conducted a joint special enforcement unit operation in Malibu, with a focus on speeders and other violations that leads to collisions on Pacific Coast Highway. Photos by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Sheriff’s Office will request the city to acquire four lidar speed guns to record hazardous driving behaviors

Since the fatal Oct. 17 incident that took the lives of four Pepperdine students, the community has been advocating for public safety improvements on PCH and an increase in law enforcement. 

While the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriffs Department had expressed the challenges with the inadequate deputies, local, county, and state agencies have begun implementing and funding resources needed to enhance safety and avoid further tragedies. 

Starting Jan. 1, a three-officer California Highway Patrol task force was deployed to enforce traffic regulations and target speeding drivers.

On Dec. 22 and 27, CHP West Valley and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) conducted a joint special enforcement unit operation in Malibu, with a focus on speeders and other violations that lead to collisions on Pacific Coast Highway. 

The Malibu Times was invited to go behind the scenes of the joint operation on Dec. 27 and was able to observe the collaborative effort of both agencies.

“This is the first time, I think, in 30 years that CHP has been out here, so were hoping to really create a good unity between the two of us so we can work together,” CHP West Valley PIO Officer Casey Ramstead said. “There’s a lot of residents who still remember CHP back in the day because we’ve always been focused on vehicles codes, violations, and keeping the roads safe, so we like to focus on the vehicle code and slow people down.”

The joint operation was held near Webb Way and PCH and officers were focusing their lidar guns on speeding drivers. The motor deputies issued 61 citations that morning, 52 of them for speeding. Other violations included red light violations, cellphone violations, and unlicensed drivers. 

According to the city’s website (malibucity.org), there have been no regular CHP patrols in Malibu since the city was incorporated in 1991. The City Council declared a local emergency to address PCH safety on Nov. 13. In the meantime, City Manager Steve McClary quickly approved the short-term contract to pay for patrols, costing the city $50,000, equating to 40 CHP officer shifts. The shifts were also allocated to be most effective.

“I’m sure sheriff’s will teach us a couple things and we’ll be able to teach them a couple things, and either way well work and make these roads a little bit safer for everyone,” Ramstead said. “We definitely want to focus on the areas that have been a little more dangerous in the past, more accidents, more fatality accidents, were going to focus on the areas. If there’s a trend we’re going to follow the trends, if people like to speed in certain sections, that’s the section we’re going to go to, to slow it down, if they go somewhere else, we’ll follow them. We’re going to be fluid in just however need to make sure we provide the most security so people can feel safer.”

Ramstead said they hope people will feel safer walking their dogs, riding their bikes, or pulling out of their driveway without worrying about a driver going 100 mph.

“We want them the people who want to treat it [PCH] as a race track to leave and the people that are going to adhere to the laws to and treat it with respect, they’re more than welcome,” Ramstead said. “With the CHP, we’re hoping that well be able to reduce that so they can feel safe on the road again.”

Ramstead said they will be working with LASD to see which areas need more concentration.

“I’m sure well get more information from them on where exactly they want more focus, but at the end of the day we’re going to try to be everywhere we can and let them know were not going to be in just one spot,” Ramstead said. “We want the officers to be all over the place, all the time; I want them to seem like they’re everywhere so hopefully the entire drive, I don’t want to get pulled over so I’m going to follow the rules and follow the laws and I think if we can get that thought into everyone’s head. I think that’s a success.”

LASD Sgt. James Arens said the LASD will request at the City Council meeting on Jan. 8, to acquire four lidar speed guns equipped with a digital video camera to record hazardous driving behaviors, costing $27,960.68. Acquisition of this equipment will support the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s increased traffic enforcement efforts within the city.

While $25,000 is the standard threshold for contracts that must be approved by the City Council, the city’s purchasing ordinance (Chapter 2.56) allows for greater flexibility when making purchases for supplies or services in response to a local emergency. 

Last month, California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin and other state officials visited Malibu to conduct an assessment of safety conditions on the highway. 

“The tour was a call to action to do everything that can be done to prevent future tragedies. The collaborative effort between local and state government officials is to avoid future fatalities, minimize injuries, and make PCH safe,” a city press release says. “Discussions included infrastructure enhancements, increased law enforcement presence, and educational initiatives to promote responsible driving. Next steps also include the city, California Highway Patrol (CHP) and LA County working together to expand future patrols, designating PCH as a Safety Corridor as soon as possible, and moving legislation forward to deploy speed cameras on PCH as soon as feasible.”

At the end of the operation, Ramstead said CHP officers were working with the deputies to get to know them, but to also share ideas, and become familiar with the highway and where they want their officers to focus a little more attention on.

“This was exactly what it was supposed to be, which was to feel it out, get to know and understand before we hit the floor running on Jan. 1,” Ramstead said. 

The fatal incident that took the lives of four Pepperdine students was the breaking point for the entire community and urged the city and other agencies to increase safety on PCH.

“I always tell the people, your choices, where you put your passion, your energy, your vote, all those things matters a lot and this is where you need to rise up as a group and demand what you want for your community, if you want more enforcement, if you want officers, you need to tell the community, you need to force the people that represent your community that they hear you and I think at that point there was a breaking point,” Ramstead said. “We don’t have to write tickets, we don’t have to take reports, if everyone behaves and does what they’re supposed to, our jobs nice and simple, but if people are going to keep on treating it like their personal race track, we’re going to do what we can to make other people protected and keep the pedestrians, the residents and the visitors safe. We’re just here to try to bring back a little bit of sanity and hopefully get people safe again.”

Arens welcomed the new partnership.

“The Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s station is looking forward to having a partnership with the California Highway Patrol,” Arens said. “We will work well together and do our best to stop the speeding issues and other violations that cause collisions. Our objective is to make PCH a safer road to travel on.”