MALIBU — Though Malibu’s busy summer tourism season is already underway, city and county officials are hoping to have a team of Malibu Volunteers on Patrol (VOP) certified to issue parking tickets by mid-summer.

Currently, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is the only agency allowed to write up parking tickets in Malibu after city officials declined to renew a contract with a private parking enforcement company last year.

If VOP members become certified to issue the tickets, officials hope it will leave less on the sheriff department’s plate.

“We can’t be everywhere at once, so it’ll be a supplemental help to us,” said Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Deputy Shawn Brownell. “Our deputies write parking tickets, but that’s not their main priority. Their main priority is crime calls.”

The department hopes to hone in on parking violations in popular spots like Zuma Beach, Paradise Cove and Pacific Coast Highway near the Malibu Lagoon and Pier.

The group of approximately 10 civilian volunteers have the power to issue parking warnings and each VOP member is required to volunteer at least 16 hours per month.

“[The warnings] work surprisingly well,” said VOP leader Daniel Villefort. “I’ll write one up for a car that’s been parked for 24 or 48 hours, and the next day I’ll drive by again and see that they’re gone.”

Since members of the VOP work free-of-charge, the city of Malibu saves money if VOP starts writing up parking violators, City Manager Jim Thorsen said.

“It’s at a great price for the city and we think it’ll be a great way to utilize the VOP team,” he said.

Additionally, with a new three-hour parking limit coming to about 30 parking spaces in the Civic Center area, Thorsen said having the VOP issue parking tickets should help in that area as well.

The City Council must approve a resolution for the VOP to receive training, which Thorsen said would be on the June 11 council agenda.

Brownell said volunteer patrol teams have been similarly trained to issue parking citations in other cities such as Santa Clarita, Calif.

County funds arson watch helicopter

In the hopes of bearing down on threats of brush fires during the dry summer season and throughout the year, county officials recently approved funding for an arson watch helicopter to monitor the Santa Monica Mountains in and around Malibu.

The sheriff’s helicopter will work in tandem with Los Angeles County Fire, county officials said.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky made the announcement last week during an appearance at Malibu’s State of the City address.

“Now, during fire season, we have one more arrow in our quiver,” he said. “If [the helicopter crew] sees one puff of smoke, they can alert fire authorities right away. You can’t go wrong with too much response.”

Yaroslavsky was grateful Malibu has not been faced with a massive wildfire in several years, but this year’s severe drought could mean “another fire season with major drama.”

“We’re overdue,” he said. “There is no doubt about it.”

The chopper should also aid in everyday operations with the sheriff’s department, such as crimes in progress or accidents on PCH.

The Board of Supervisors allotted approximately $100,000 to fund the year-round monitoring. The helicopter will split its time between the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station and Zuma Beach.

Additionally, Yaroslavsky helped secure about $200,000 in added funding for the county’s beach enforcement team, which patrols heavy crowds on county-owned beaches throughout Malibu and Topanga.

This story first appeared in the Malibu Times.

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