Potential vandals in Santa Paula in for a shock as city officials approve electric fences

·4 min read

Trespassers will soon have to watch out for electrified security fences in certain industrial areas of Santa Paula after city officials approved them on Wednesday.

City officials gave unanimous initial approval of the fences, and the final vote is scheduled at the next council meeting on April 6.

City Manager Dan Singer said some businesses have had numerous thefts and vandalism along the city's southern border that abuts the Santa Clara River bed.

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Singer attributed the incidents and the thefts are clearly to the people camping in the river bottom.

James Mason, the city's community and economic development director, said the equipment rental company United Rentals specifically asked officials about the fencing.

The company is leasing space at the end of Santa Paula Street for the storage of portable generators with batteries and copper, he said. Mason showed council photos of security fencing that had been cut and said a person who was recently rekeying the facility was "physically accosted."

"These locations become easy targets for people to just walk out of the river, jump over a fence and either vandalize or steal," he said.

Mason said the United Rentals' nearly 4-acre property between the Santa Paula branch line railroad and Santa Paula Street along Santa Paula creek was broken into at least 17 times. The timeframe was unclear.

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"If it's after hours, even with security cameras and everything else, by the time the owner or police has responded the person has probably gone," Mason said. "So there's not a lot you can do."

The Santa Paula Creek and the Santa Clara River have a lot of homeless encampments and a lot of industrial properties are along those corridors.

"It's kind of hard to manage that," Mason said.

Late last year, about eight homeless encampments were cleaned up along the back side of the property, Mason said.

Officials said the city's municipal code historically prohibited the use of electrified fences within city limits. Staff members proposed an amendment to the code that aligns with state law.

The amendment states the fence can have a monitored alarm system that would trigger the business or monitoring service in response to an intrusion or burglary.

City officials defined an electrified security fence as any fence, barrier or enclosure partially or totally surrounding a building, field or yard, carrying any electrical pulse or charge through any part.

According to the ordinance, no electrified security fence will be installed or operated with a power source other than a storage battery not exceeding 12 volts direct current, charged primarily with a solar panel.

This type of fence is on a cycle that does not have a continuous current like a cattle guard fence, Mason said.

"It's the same as getting a big shock, like somebody's dragging their feet across the carpet or touching a spark plug on a car. It's enough to where you touch it and you pull away from it."

Under city requirements, the electric security fence must be behind another fence that's not electric by at least 12 inches, he said.

"There's no way for someone to get to it without intentionally trying to climb a fence and get over that fence to get to this fence," Mason said. "You got to really want to get there to do it. And then once you get there, there's security systems in place."

Signs are required to be at minimum every 30 feet in English and Spanish from both sides of the fence, Mason said.

Mason said the idea behind the fence is to create as many obstructions as possible to stop vandals or thieves.

The fence must be setback at least 10 feet from any street property line and separated by at least 5 feet from a sidewalk, including the perimeter fence, Mason said.

"It's not something that someone could happen upon," Mason said. "To get to that fence they're going to have to be trespassing. To get over a 6- to 9-foot fence to reach an 8 to 10-foot fence is going to take some serious intention."

The fences will not be installed in areas where people will walk and they will only be activated after business hours, Mason said.

The fire department will have access to a key to deactivate the electric fence.

The fences will be permitted in commercial light industrial, light industrial and industrial zones, officials said.

Keith Kaneko, director of government relations for the security fence company Amarok, said their fences have never caught fire.

Councilman Rick Araiza asked what happens if insulated bolt cutters were used to cut away the fence.

Kaneko said there is a psychological effect of the shock and a monitoring component that immediately identifies when someone has breached the fence that keeps a person from going forward.

The system activates when it senses around five or less volts, and it will go into an alarm mode and notify the monitoring operator.

Mason said United Rentals was the first business to approach the city about the fences.

Wes Woods II covers West County for the Ventura County Star. Reach him at wesley.woodsii@vcstar.com, 805-437-0262 or @JournoWes.

This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Santa Paula approves electric security fences in industrial areas