Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva oversees a $3 billion budget, roughly 16,000 employees, the largest sheriff's department in the world, and the largest inmate population in the country. All under his leadership.
Spectrum News 1 anchor Giselle Fernandez spoke to Sheriff Villanueva about the actions he's taken to keep us safe during this pandemic, on a new series called COVID-19: Just the Facts.
"Yeah. I spent my entire career in emergencies, small scale, big scale, the riots, uh, the wildfires for example, the earthquakes '94, but it was always confined to one location," Villanueva said. "Everything else was OK. This is one where it's not OK anywhere. So it makes it very unique."
In a candid conversation, Sheriff Villanueva spoke about the unique challenges, and importance, of protecting the county's inmate population.
"Then [we] have an inmate population that we're responsible for, got to take care of them. The workforce. You can't take care of one without the other because they go hand in hand," Villanueva said. "For example, if my workforce starts falling ill to the virus, I still need people. Manning the jail to maintain the jail population because we can, we can work on the margins of the ones that are not violent. They're not, uh, you know, serious felonies. But unfortunately I have a huge number that's, they're not going anywhere. They're there to stay, so we've got to provide for them."
Sheriff Villanueva also spoke about the challenges of overseeing a response for the entire county of Los Angeles.
"In our jurisdiction goes from St. Clemon Island, Catalina Island, from the beach down south, Long Beach, all the up to the High Desert. Lancaster, Palmdale," Villanueva said. "So from the East Claremont all the way to the west, which would be the tip of Malibu on the West Side. So that's of those 4,700 square miles, 3,100 square miles or jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Department that we provide law enforcement services."
Villanueva also addressed the massive challenge of trying to protect the county's homeless population.
"Well, the worst case scenario is probably going to play itself out on skid row because you have too many homeless, crowded together with very poor hygiene and not enough social distancing and they're already compromised from a health perspective. Just like our inmate population, their overall health level is lower than the general population," said Villenueva.
"So this high risk people, people that are, for example, they have a substance abuse problem. They've been smoking meth, they've been smoking crack, all these things. Their lungs already have issues. So you throw the coronavirus on top of that. That'll be a lot of our casualties in that group. So our hosting, the homeless outreach service team, we have a Lieutenant, a Sergeant and 14 deputies."
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE:
- How the LAPD Is Helping to Flatten the Curve
- Feel Sick? What to Do and Where to Get a Coronavirus Test in CA
Sheriff Villanueva emphasized the importance of remaining at home and practicing social isolation in order to flatten the curve.
"I need them, all Angelenos to help us, because the more they cooperate, the more they stay. They shelter in home, only go out for the bare essentials that they need. The more they do that, it lowers it, shrinking the size of the problem, it will, you know, 'hashtag flatten the curve,' and it makes it a shorter time period to when the virus finally dies out," said Villanueva.
To learn more about what the city is doing, watch the episode in the video above or visit corona-virus.la.