While the July Fourth holiday is still close to five months away, the City of Hermosa Beach wants a message to be loud and clear this year -- If you are coming to Hermosa Beach on the Fourth of July to cause problems, stay at home.
In response to last year's high police and fire activity that led to the Hermosa Beach jail being filled to capacity, the Hermosa Beach City Council Tuesday heard proposals from both the police and fire chief on how to avoid the same problems from happening again this year.
"We want to present a truly practical, decent approach to handling crime issues," Hermosa Beach interim police chief Steve Johnson told the council. "We will not let people overrun this community... That is not going to happen."
According to a staff report, emergency responders working the 2012 Fourth of July holiday saw an increase in almost all types of calls compared to the five-year average, placing a strain on city resources and the emergency resources of neighboring cities such as Manhattan Beach.
To alleviate those problems, Johnson and city staff proposed that the city hire more deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, crack down on short term rental properties, track social media and begin outreach with local schools.
"If you want to come here to Hermosa Beach, you come here to enjoy the opportunity, but not to cause problems," Johnson said. "Our goal is not to try and arrest people, our goal is to make sure that we have a safe and secure beach and a safe and secure July Fourth."
New this year, Johnson proposed that the city deploy a Sheriff's Department jail bus to the area around Second Street to detain prisoners and maintain a physical police presence.
"I want (the bus) as a visual deterrent," said Johnson. "If you come here to cause problems, you may find yourself instead of looking into this bus, looking out of the bus."
Johnson also emphasized that the police department will place special focus on underage drinking and parties at rented properties.
On notice are the short term rental property owners who the city hopes to proactively reach out to ahead of the holiday. Rentals shorter than 30 days are technically illegal in Hermosa Beach but according to the city, many homeowners illegally rent their properties by the night or week on websites such as VRBO and Vacationrentals.com.
This year, the Community Development Department said it will will conduct a "systematic review of rental and short-term rental advertising" on rental websites and send reminders to property owners about the city's policy on short term rentals. Property owners will also be held responsible for the actions of their tenants and Fourth of July parties at Strand homes will be shut down if the property's bona fide tenant is not present, Johnson said.
It is also an issue that Mayor Kit Bobko wants to see stricter enforcement on.
"I fear that once all of this happens, we will be faced with some property owner who will claim ignorance," Bobko said in support of stricter enforcement and raising awareness of the short term rental ordinance. "I guarantee you that after one year, we won't have a second... I think that we should start publicizing that we are very serious here."
The council also promised the police cheif that they would do everything in their power to provide him with any resources he deemed fit to keep crowds under control.
"I would rather have too many than not enough," Bobko told Johnson. "If you need the resources, you tell us what you need and we will do what we can to help you."
In September, the council approved $10,000 in funding for police enforcement. That money, Johnson said, will be used in part to hire seven additional sheriff's deputies for a total of 25 deputies on duty.
In addition, the fire department will deploy an additional paramedic ambulance and a second paramedic fire engine on July 4 to reduce the number of mutual aid calls to neighboring cities.
"It scared us all," Bobko said of last year's Fourth of July incidents. "Hermosa Beach is not going to be a war zone again."