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Altadena Junction: The lingering of old ghosts

The people of Altadena have a complicated relationship with law enforcement.

November 06, 2011|By Timothy Rutt

We don’t have our own police force. As an unincorporated area, we are served by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Furthermore, we’re under the rule of the Crescenta Valley sheriff’s station. This means that our local captain answers to a commander at Crescenta Valley and 911 calls for service are routed there first.

Still, most residents are very supportive of law enforcement: There’s a Sheriff’s Support Group that raises funds for equipment, a community advisory committee, a clergy council, a volunteer mounted patrol and a Volunteers on Patrol program of unarmed civilians who act as extra eyes and ears for the deputies.

The captain’s chair in Altadena is usually given to a sheriff’s officer with 30 years under his belt, a place to mark the last three years until retirement. As a result, our captains don’t last very long, and the quality of their management tends to vary.

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We seem to have lucked out this time: Capt. Steven McLean took the helm in April 2010, and if you don’t see him around, you don’t get out enough. He turns up at nearly every large community gathering and even some neighborhood events. He’s not afraid to do a turn in the dunk tank if called upon. Even though he’s at a point in his career when he can put his feet up a bit, you still see him taking patrol shifts.

He was named one of the top captains by the rank-and-file deputies this summer, the only first-year captain to be ranked among the top 10.

He’s also getting results: Altadena had a major problem with burglaries in 2009 and 2010. Deputies said gangbangers figured that, rather than deal drugs or engage in some other illegal activity, it was an easier score to break into an empty house and take whatever they could pack out quickly. A pattern was established: knock on the front door, and if nobody answers, go into the backyard, break in and take whatever is easily turned into money — jewelry, laptops, iPods, purses.

McLean made the burglary wave a priority, putting more resources on it and encouraging local neighborhood watch groups to keep an eye out for people who just don’t belong. As of September, the latest month for which statistics are available, the year-to-date figure for burglaries was down by one third. Other crimes score similarly, with grand theft auto down by 40.7%.

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