News Details

Newport Beach plans to ask for management duties. A law enforcement group opposes the idea, saying it would hurt public safety.

May 4, 2007

The ongoing debate about who should run the Harbor Patrol in Newport Beach may become more intense, with city and county officials bidding for control.

When Newport officials in 2003 suggested the city take over patrolling its own coastline, they got a chilly reception from the county. Since then, some Orange County supervisors have suggested the city should pay for Harbor Patrol services, which led Newport officials to ask what's in it for them.

Now county supervisors have agreed to let the city submit a proposal to run the Harbor Patrol, but Newport may be getting a proposal in return. Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona, who oversees the Harbor Patrol, told Supervisor John Moorlach that it's only fair to let him put in a bid to provide public safety on the streets of Newport Beach.

The Orange County Sheriff's Harbor Patrol is headquartered in Newport Beach and also serves Huntington Harbour, Sunset Beach and Dana Point, where the harbor is owned by the county.

The Sheriff's Department has contracts with 12 of the county's 34 cities. Carona has not publicly sought to patrol Newport, which has its own police, but Moorlach told supervisors at a meeting Tuesday that the sheriff had expressed interest.

Several calls to Carona on Wednesday and Thursday were not returned.

Newport Beach City Manager Homer Bludau said plenty of research would be required if the city were to seek control of the Harbor Patrol, but if the county presses Newport to pay for the services, the city should have more control.

"I think there's interest in looking at it and seeing if there's some revenue in order for us to provide that service," Bludau said.

"I'm for it," Moorlach said in an interview Wednesday. "I think they have the wherewithal to do it, and I have a Sheriff's Department that's telling me they're 11% understaffed…. I think it's something we need to discuss and debate and thoroughly analyze."

Any moves toward a Newport takeover will surely face opposition from the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, which has been running ads in the Daily Pilot for the last three Sundays touting the life-saving work of the Harbor Patrol. Association President Wayne Quint said the ads are simply to make the public aware of the Harbor Patrol's services, and they weren't motivated by debate over control of the agency.

But the association would oppose relinquishing the Harbor Patrol to Newport Beach, he said. "To us, if that were to happen, it would mean public safety's going to be impacted," he said.

The Harbor Patrol now covers all of the county's 42-mile coastline to three miles out at sea, Quint said, but if Newport took over, city taxpayers likely would only want to pay to patrol the city's harbor.

As to the sheriff bidding to be Newport's public safety provider, Bludau said if a proposal came in he'd show it to the City Council, but saving money wouldn't be the only consideration.

"I don't think it's a type of service that any contracting agency can just automatically fill without a deep understanding of the community," he said.