Ventura needs to hire Sheriff’s Department

EditorialBy Paul White


It’s time for Ventura Police Department officers to change uniforms. It’s time for Ventura residents to get effective, economical law enforcement leadership. It’s time for Ventura’s City Council to contract with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department to police Ventura.


This should not be a personal issue, because punishment and prevention of criminal activity are vital to a community’s well-being. Law enforcement should be handled by whoever can do it most effectively. Compared with county cities policed by the Sheriff’s Department, Ventura police leadership has given the city higher crime rates, lower cost-effectiveness, a diminished quality of life — and a steadfast denial of all three problems.

Bringing in the Sheriff’s Department is the best way to correct this situation. Maintaining the status quo risks negatively impacting Ventura’s schools, property values, businesses, tourism and overall quality of life.

Put aside your feelings and consider the facts:

  • Ventura has the highest violent crime rate of any town in the county, with a national crime grade of “D” in comparison with other U.S. cities.
  • Cities policed by the sheriff, such as Thousand Oaks and Camarillo, have the lowest crime rates in the county and national crime grades of “A.”
  • The Sheriff’s Department accomplishes this using far fewer patrol officers per capita than Ventura, annually saving its communities tens of millions of dollars in policing costs. Exchanging the Ventura Police Department with the Sheriff’s Department would provide many other economy-of-scale benefits to Ventura residents.
  • Ventura’s 127 sworn officers provide police services for 109,000 residents scattered over 32 square miles. The Sheriff’s Department has over 700 sworn officers who enforce the law for 375,000 residents in an 1,800-square-mile area (95 percent of all county land). The Sheriff’s Department is the police force of choice for five of our county’s 10 cities and operates Ventura County jails. 

Contracting for law enforcement with the sheriff would give Ventura residents extra police services, such as more comprehensive drug and gang enforcement and aircraft support. It would protect Ventura from lawsuits involving police action and eliminate workers’ compensation costs for law enforcement.

The biggest improvement would be with Ventura’s growing crime issues involving chronic vagrants. Ventura has a homeless population three to seven times greater than sheriff-policed cities. Ventura police leadership offers weak excuses for this disparity. Ventura’s homeless crime problem is out of control because of the Police Department’s ineffective, two-fold approach.

On one hand, police leadership is too soft. For example, it advocated for a municipal code provision that allows chronic vagrants to commit up to 25 quality-of-life misdemeanors before they’re taken to court. This has bred disrespect for the law, sprouted homeless camps everywhere, and made Ventura a homeless magnet.

On the other hand, the leadership is too hard on its own officers. Street cops are prevented from strongly enforcing many ordinances, like removing homeless camps and a growing horde of illegally parked RVs.

Ventura police avoid citing vagrant misdemeanors, claiming they have bigger crimes to pursue. And they do. They have more all the time because the hundreds of ignored small crimes embolden the criminals to engage in more violent felonies.

Ventura’s homeless represent less than 0.5 percent of Ventura’s population but account for 40 to 60 percent of all 911 calls. The city’s crime report reads more and more like the worst parts of Los Angeles: regular shootings, stabbings, violent assaults and robberies.

Would hiring the Sheriff’s Department improve this situation? When is the last (or first) time you heard about extensive crime and/or homeless problems in cities it polices? There’s an easy explanation: sheriff’s leadership doesn’t tolerate it, and it support deputies in enforcing that philosophy.

The Ventura City Council owes our community effective, economical law enforcement to protect us from crime and financial disaster. It needs to request a proposal from the Sheriff’s Department that would allow a comparison between what it could offer our city and what we currently have.

Paul D. White is director of the Stronghold Institute and a member of, a grassroots organization of Ventura residents dedicated to improving the city’s quality of life. You can email him at [email protected]

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Jennifer Ann Frederick-Lathem

How can we get this to happen ? Is there a petition, do we go to city Council on it?

Paul White

It’s time to retire the false idea that enforcing needed and fair laws is “criminalizing poverty”. What is – and deserves to be criminalized are all the behaviors that go with service-resistant vagrants: illegally camping (and frequently leaving mounds of toxic trash), going to the bathroom in public, using/under the influence, aggressive panhandling, etc. ANYone who’s living on the street in Ventura County is there by CHOiCE: There are hundreds of available and affordable (or free!) sober-living beds, more jobs than there are applicants, and dozens of free food pantries, not to mention the free phone, $200/mo. in free food stamps, and $300+/month in General Relief that is available to anyone truly in need.
The question is: how do you best help someone who refuses to use the help that’s available? ANYone who’s ever personally gotten anyone off the street will tell you – that for THEIR sake – you have to care enough about the person to strongly enforce the law against their illegal behaviors, while concurrently urging them to make the better choice and seek help. Pity simply enables – and ultimately prematurely destroys street addicts.
If you know anyone who’s telling you that there’s just no place they can get help, please have them contact us:
Stronghold Institute – (805) 701.2999

Matt E

While I agree that moving from a municipal police force to a county-wide Sheriff based force may be more cost effective, and removes the city from legal culpability in lawsuits, it also removes the city from certain controls over the officers patrolling the streets.

In addition, the solution for the problem of homelessness is not “criminalizing poverty”, it is housing.