By Mark Muir
This phrase is often used during moments of power transition, particularly when they are changing the way things are done, or when a new person takes control and the old ways are over. However, this is not the case with our new Sheriff’s Captain, Herbert Taft. Captain Taft plans to build upon our past successes while focusing on continuous improvement and increased community engagement. Our latest data shows that crime in Encinitas is down 25%. Captain Taft says “we can always do better and I have high expectation for my officers to meet our professional responsibilities and community needs.”
Captain Taft recently started his position as the head of the North Coastal Sheriff’s Station which oversees Del Mar, Encinitas, Solana Beach, and Rancho Santa Fe. This opening was created when Captain John Maryon was promoted to Commander within the Sheriff’s Department. Previously, Captain Taft had various assignments which included patrol, jails, 911 communication center, Internal Affairs, Supervisor, and most recently, Special Assistant to Sheriff Bill Gore. His impressive resume provides him with the skill sets needed to take on this new assignment in Encinitas.
Being a retired Fire Chief, I joked with him saying that he and I “have one thing in common – that we both wanted to be firefighters!” Taft laughed and said that his desire to be a Sheriff Officer began when he finished his service in the Navy as a Lieutenant. He served in the 1st Gulf War (1991) and then went back to the Persian Gulf for several tours. He earned the trust of his fellow officers and his country and was granted a top secret security clearance. After many years away, Captain Taft wanted to spend more time with his family, so he went from serving and protecting our country to serving and protecting our communities as a Sheriff’s Deputy Officer.
At his new job, Captain Taft has quickly started engaging in solution-oriented tactics. September is Railroad Safety Month, and earlier this month he directed a team of officers to spend a day at various locations along the tracks (from Del Mar to Leucadia) and meet people who were illegally crossing the tracks. They engaged 58 people that day and did not issue a single ticket, but did write 58 warnings. He said that he’s more interested in educating people on the dangers of crossing the track, situation awareness and changing their behavior, than writing a ticket. However, tickets can still be given if education and behavior modification doesn’t improve.
He understands that not everybody is going to be nice to the deputies or even like them, but that doesn’t affect their ability to be professional and respectful. He also wants everyone to know that deputies place themselves at risk for people they don’t even know. “That’s what we do.” He also wanted people to know that the Sheriff’s Deputies live in our community and are also impacted by these same problems. “I’m 100% confident that the deputies are caring and concerned and they love to brag about low crime rates.”
When asked if the department monitors Nextdoor, the neighborhood-oriented social media site, he said “we don’t monitor it, but our crime prevention specialists follow and watch it. It’s been useful and has helped us solve some crimes, but sometimes people will identify a crime on Nextdoor without calling the Sheriff’s Department. People should call us first. A prowler, for example, is a high priority call, and several patrol cars will show up quickly.”
When there’s an issue, Captain Taft often explores it himself. He recently learned of problems near the Library on Cornish Drive. So, he drove out to the area a few times to personally observe the situation. Soon after, he met with City Manager Karen Brunst to propose a change to the parking rules in that area, which has improved the problem.
Captain Taft enjoys engaging with the community and likes to spend time with smaller groups too, including HOA’s and Community Coffees.