San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office reports that calls on the coast were down precipitously in recent months, a trend officials attribute to the ongoing pandemic.

In his annual appearance before Half Moon Bay City Council, Sheriff’s Capt. Saul Lopez of the Half Moon Bay and Coastside patrol bureau shared trends in deputies’ responses to calls and arrests made between July 2019 and June 2020. The presentation came a year after the city renewed its contract with the Sheriff’s Office.

Lopez also discussed a special team that responds to psychiatric emergencies, which prompted questions from people still reeling from the death of a woman carrying a gun who was killed by deputies in downtown Half Moon Bay in May.

This year, there were 15 percent fewer calls for service — amounting to about 1,800 fewer responses. Lopez attributed the decrease to COVID-19.

Of the 329 crimes reported, 93 resulted in arrests. There were an additional 358 misdemeanor arrests or citations. Forty-six of the misdemeanor arrests were DUI violations, up from 39 last year.

City staff prefaced that Lopez’s presentation would not focus on issues that have brought the Sheriff’s Office under scrutiny in the last few months, including the ongoing investigation into the mishandling of funds by the former Sheriff’s Activity League director and the fatal shooting by deputies of Sandra Harmon. The city’s Public Safety Subcommittee met after Review print deadlines on Tuesday. It is likely to consider the Sheriff’s Office contract in the weeks to come.

When discussing the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team, which is responsible for handling incidents like the Harmon case, Lopez shared that the team can be deployed before or during an emergency. However, it largely conducts follow-up services with deputies and the family of the individual experiencing a mental health emergency.

“If time is on our side, of course we’re going to utilize all the resources available to us,” Lopez said.

“If the PERT team is available ... our deputies are asked to call them if time allows,” he said. “Usually (in) a lot of these incidents, time is not on our side to deescalate these situations.”

There were 49 referrals in Half Moon Bay to PERT, which is staffed by two Sheriff’s detectives and two licensed mental health clinicians on the team.

Lopez said there are plans to add deputies with additional training to PERT.

The rest of the Sheriff’s update included the following:

The number of traffic and parking violations has also decreased, largely in the city’s downtown corridor.

A customer satisfaction survey based on 21 responses showed 100 percent satisfaction with the level of service provided by deputies.

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