Station deputies don aprons, serve up coffee, community engagement at Starbucks

Station deputies don aprons, serve up coffee, community engagement at Starbucks

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies were meeting, greeting and even whipping cream Wednesday at the Starbucks in Canyon Country near the intersection of Camp Plenty and Soledad Canyon roads.

The latest installment of “Coffee with a Cop” featured Deputy Evan Luster getting behind the counter and a pair of East Side Crime Stoppers – Deputies Juan Ayala and Rafael Sierra – helping customers where to they could

Lt. Brandon Barclay and Sgt. Guillermo Martinez also joined in greeting customers at the event that was part outreach and part public service, with a recruiting number as well.

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Sgt. Guillermo Martinez dons a Starbucks apron during the Coffee with a Cop event held at Starbucks in Canyon Country on Wednesday, 122822. Dan Watson/The Signal

“In terms of the community engagement aspect, it opens up a window for people to come and engage over a coffee and get to know the man behind the badge,” said Lt. Brandon Barclay, lieutenant of operations for the SCV Sheriff’s Station.

The MPs helping customers certainly seemed at ease to lend a hand, some earning the appreciation and respect of their new-found colleagues as they put out specialty coffees in a Cop-edition trademark green apron with their names right underneath where their badges could be seen.

“It’s been great β€” we love Evan,” said Hailey Claitor, who knew Luster as a regular at the location before Wednesday’s event, as well as some of the other deputies helping around the counter.

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Deputy Evan Luster, right, talks with customers Cesar Cap, left, Sandra and Carson Cap, during the Coffee with a Cop event held at Starbucks in Canyon Country on Wednesday, 122822. Dan Watson/ The Signal

“We have deputies here who are helping our ‘regulars,’ who are also his regulars,” Claitor said, noting that the coffee shop environment acts as a wonderful gathering point and that their frequent customers have make friends in the cafe and get to know each other from the community.

“We meet a pretty diverse crowd,” said Martinez, who leads the station’s CPU and its Off-Road Enforcement Team.

“We run into people who like law enforcement and we run into people who don’t like law enforcement, and we’ve been able to change people’s perspectives sometimes, give them an opportunity to ask questions where they might otherwise not feel comfortable (asking),” he said.

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Deputy Juan Ayala puts the finishing touches on a caramel tall brulee while helping behind the counter during the Coffee with a Cop event held at Starbucks in Canyon Country on Wednesday, 122822. Dan Watson /The Signal

He told the story of a woman he met over a previous coffee with a policeman who had a family full of relatives from a medical background. But she became interested in the process of becoming a deputy after speaking with Martinez, who previously instructed trainees at the Sheriff’s Academy.

Now she’s a reserve member of parliament, he said, and then, almost as if on cue as he finished the anecdote, a woman in her 20s walked up and started asking questions about the requirements to become a member of parliament.

Like many other law enforcement agencies throughout the county, the LA County Sheriff’s Department has many open positions.

Former Sheriff Alex Villanueva noted in February that LASD department-wide is about 72% staffed, and Capt. Justin Diez noted earlier this month that Station SCV deputies are already regularly scheduled for “a significant amount of overtime” to address staff shortages. (Carrie Lujan, spokeswoman for the city of Santa Clarita, said the SCV Sheriff’s Station has always stayed in compliance with its service contract, which tracks the time deputies assigned to city patrols down to the minute.)

In addition to supporting the deputies, some of the visitors wanted to ask about crime, traffic and the area’s growing homeless population.

The topic was particularly sensitive for Canyon Country Cafe, which had an in-store incident earlier this month involving a female transient dealing with mental health issues who became an aggressive patron. After giving the woman a dollar, and then another, the woman said she didn’t have $5 to give when the suspect asked for a third. The homeless woman then struck the victim in the back of the head.

Store manager Nina Sabedra, who acknowledged the incident, said it was good to have deputies present, especially some of the regulars, and the event is something she would like to see more often.

β€œIt’s definitely needed and it’s good to see them connected to the community. I think this is very important in our area because of all the incidents we’re experiencing in the area, so it’s good to see them,” Sabedra said.

“I love that they’re calling the drinks, one of them was bringing in some whipped cream and some caramel – it’s nice that they were willing to help, get behind it and get their hands dirty.”

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