By a Tribune staff writer
The too-pushy panhandler. The drunken party-goer. The shoplifter. These are the kind of offenders often cited by police as having committed misdemeanors, but how often are they prosecuted in a court of law? Not often enough, the City of Huntington Beach has decided.
The appropriation of $145,000 to hire a deputy community prosecutor to handle misdemeanors was approved on a 7-0 vote Tuesday night by the Huntington Beach City Council. Under an agreement with the Orange County District Attorney’s office, the city will get its own dedicated lawyer to handle cases deemed less urgent than felonies.
According to a staff report by City Attorney Michael E. Gates, about 80 percent of the 5,675 arrests made in Huntington Beach in 2015 were misdemeanors, the sort of offense that the OCDA has not been able to completely prosecute.
“Employing a community prosecutor would allow the City of Huntington Beach to ensure that certain misdemeanors are prosecuted to the end, and prosecuted effectively,” wrote Gates.
Such a prosecutor would help identify issues and offenses that are a priority to Huntington Beach residents, the report said. “For example,” Gates wrote, “if the city is having a particular problem with alcohol downtown, a community prosecutor would be part of a meeting with stakeholders in the community, along with the police department, to help develop comprehensive strategies to increase public safety.”
Additionally, by deciding which cases for the community prosecutor and handle and which to refer to the Orange County District Attorney’s office, the city would be able to focus on offenses such as intoxication-related crime, crimes committed by the homeless and property crimes, Gates wrote.
The new community prosecutor would receive an annuals salary of $100,000, with $45,000 in benefits and related costs.
Categories: Huntington Beach