Officials plan to meet this week with the union representing employees working in the Orange County Civic Center to discuss complaints about violence from the homeless population.
The Orange County Employees Association sent a letter to acting Chief Executive Officer Frank Kim Earlier this month, citing growing fears of workers following an attack on one county employee and a threat of rape.
The letter was prompted by the county’s announcement it would install metal detectors in the county board’s meeting room, starting March 3.
“While we appreciate efforts to protect the public, members of the Board of Supervisors, and staff who attend meetings there, we are concerned about the contrasting lack of demonstrated concern for the safety of our county employees who work in and around the rest of the Civic Center area,” wrote Jennifer Muir, assistant general manager of the union.
Muir told City News Service about a meeting Friday with county officials on the issue that has some employees so worried they are taking advantage of escorts from sheriff’s deputies to their car from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
“I’m encouraged we’re all going to sit down and talk about all this stuff, but up to this point it’s been hit or miss,” Muir said.
“One of our biggest concerns we’ve had is the lack of communication about the safety risks outside the Hall of Administration.”
Muir said she would like some sort of crime blotter offered to employees that informed them of incidents around the Hall of Administration and it’s neighboring Hall of Records in Santa Ana.
Kim sent a memo to employees on Thursday listing a crime blotter for employees as one of the items that will be offered to soothe concerns. County officials will also look at increasing maintenance around the buildings to wash down the pavement and pick up trash.
Self-defense training is also being offered.
“I am doing everything I can to protect our employees and make them feel safe,” Orange County Board Chairman Todd Spitzer said. “We will and are doing everything in our power to make sure our employees are safe in their workplace environment.”
Part of the problem is the government buildings are a destination for many of the homeless because religious and nonprofit organizations offer free meals to them there, Spitzer said.
The county has also had trouble creating a long-term shelter for the area’s transients. Last year, a plan to establish one in an industrial area of Santa Ana imploded when Santa Ana City Council members, who had greenlighted the project, reversed themselves under public pressure from neighbors who opposed it.
Spitzer said he is seeking information from Santa Ana police on how much it is costing to have eight officers patrolling the area.
“We have a serious problem because we have not addressed the heart of the matter, the root of the matter,” which is helping the homeless find shelter, Spitzer said.
Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said she considers employee safety a “top priority” and will “continue to work with (Kim) to make sure everything possible is being done to keep our county employees safe from harm.”
— City News Service