Public Safety addresses recent crime, vandalism, and copper wire theft

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Public safety has been a major concern in Malibu lately, with brush fires, power outages, vandalism, and theft occurring this past month. To start the Public Safety Commission meeting on June 6, the commission addressed community concerns in regards to the vandalism that occurred during the holiday weekend.

“We had a not very safe Fourth of July weekend,” Malibu resident Lloyd Ahern said during public comment. “We had a person come out of the canyon — we think out of the canyon — and come with an ax to at least seven of our houses over both the night of the third and fourth … it’s a lot scarier than it looks, we’re all scared.”

On Monday, July 4, several homes along Pacific Coast Highway and Tuna Canyon Road were vandalized by a man with a pickaxe; the man was later identified as 55-year-old Thomas Aaron Brothers. Brothers was seen on one of the home security cameras swinging the pickaxe towards residents’ doors and vehicles. He was arrested and detained four days later in a bathroom on Santa Monica Beach. 

Public Safety Director Susan Dueñas said the department met with the residents and the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department to address their concerns. 

Public Safety Liaison Luis Flores provided an update on parking violations and how overnight parking looks like on Pacific Coast Highway in regards to RVs and homelessness.

“We got to see a great amount of cars in violation of the multiple overnight parking ordinances, there were over 104 citations given overnight, the Malibu VOPs [Volunteers on patrol] and deputies were very active there. It seems like Las Tunas Beach is where there’s a higher concentration of RVs parked overnight,” Flores said. “I want to say there were about 15 to 20 that we saw in that short stretch there. In regards to homelessness, I want to say it was about a quarter of all the RVs that we saw, maybe even less 10 to 15 appeared to be inhabited by people experiencing homelessness.”

Flores said the annual homeless count results will be in by the end of July. Flores also said Homelessness Connect Day is scheduled for Sept. 22. 

As for providing resources to individuals experiencing homelessness, Flores said they continue to offer assistance to whoever accepts it and says newer faces continue to appear in the area.

“We’ll of course continue with that consistency moving forward just to make sure that these areas remain clear of any potential public safety hazard and of course for their own well-being as well,” Flores said. “We know walking alongside PCH is very dangerous, especially at night, so we’ll continue to monitor these areas routinely.”

Flores also provided an update on the temporary impound yard at Heathercliff Road and said there have been 84 vehicles that have been impounded since they began operation on June 18.

Malibu’s Fire Safety Liaison Gabe Etcheverry provided an update on the brush fire that occurred on Wednesday, July 6, at Latigo Canyon and said the cause was undetermined.

“No structures were threatened, nor were any aircraft or dozers used, homeless encampments were ruled out,” Etcheverry said. “It was around 9:30 a.m. and the units were on the scene for about an hour and a half.”

Etcheverry also provided an update on live fuel moisture saying it’s a “cause for a concern.” As of June 23, LFM is at 74 percent, down from 78 percent from the previous sampling. The historical average for this time of year is about 90 percent. LFM can be as high as 200 percent, and 60 percent and below is considered critical. Live Fuel Moisture is currently at levels normally seen later in the summer. This means fuels are drier and more receptive to fire spread. 

Etcheverry concluded by looking at fire threats from other metrics.

“We can use the live fuel moisture as our standards to these meetings, but I would like to share with you the burning index and be more accurate in that it comes out every day and we can truly assess day-to-day threats, as opposed to looking at a two-week snapshot,” Etcheverry said.

Public Works Director Rob DuBoux provided an update on beach maintenance and incident reports over the holiday weekend and said there was no major update. DuBoux also said Caltrans is terminating the hybrid beacon project near Malibu Seafood, the project that was originally proposed in 2019. Residents objected to the plan to install a traffic signal in front of Malibu Seafood at Corral Canyon Beach. The project was to increase safety for pedestrians who commonly cross PCH from the restaurant to the beach.

In regards to the power outage that occurred on June 29, DuBoux is waiting for a response from Southern California Edison for an update on the outage.

Chair Chris Frost raised concerns on the increase in copper wire theft occurring in Mulholland Canyon and Malibu Canyon areas that carry AT&T lines made of copper wire.

“It’s got to be people dressed in utility outfits, because how else could they be doing this in plain daylight,” Frost said. “A couple of the power outages that we’ve had these past few weeks could be caused by this. So everyone keep your eyes open and when you’re driving around and see something weird, call it in.”

The commission also reviewed Knox box. The Knox box system would provide options for the Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies’ access to gated communities and gated properties through the installation of emergency key systems. The commission motioned to provide a recommendation to the City Council to implement the preferred option. The commission voted to review the key systems in a year.

Lt. Chad Watters from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station provided the last report in the meeting on the recent robberies including the robbery that occurred in Point Dume on July 6.

“We’re in the process of figuring out who that is; we did DNA, we recovered his vehicle and will hopefully have a name on that soon,” Watters said. 

Watters said there has been a decrease in vehicle thefts, but an increase in robbery and vandalism.

“As far as citations written, 794 citations were written, 552 of those were hazardous parking citations, total collisions were 29,” Watters said. “We did have one DUI fatality unfortunately.” 

Watters said the temporary tow yard has been working well this summer, reporting 37 vehicles had been towed on the Fourth of July alone.

As for the RVs parking throughout PCH and the canyons, Watters said they’re following the signs and moving around.

“They’re following what the sign says and what we post so that’s allowable,” Watters said.

Watters said the sheriff’s will be focusing on speeding and the use of illegal exhaust on the weekends and throughout the week. 

Watters addressed a public comment saying yes, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority receives alerts to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.

“We actually know exactly what time the suspect from the pickaxe and what day he gets on the bus, gets off the bus, where he goes — we know everything about him,” Watters said. 

The next Public Safety Commission meeting is scheduled for August 3