The Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station recently installed a new “comfort room” that will give the public a less intimidating place to wait while they visit the station headquarters in Calabasas.
Calabasas Mayor Mary Sue Maurer proposed the idea for the new space, which converted a former police interview area into a hospitable room for victims of crime and for children waiting for protective custody, allowing them to feel relaxed in the otherwise industrial confines of the station.
“I’m really happy about this,” said Maurer, who assembled furnishings for the room with the help of the community.
The converted room also offers a better atmosphere for conducting sensitive interviews, said Capt. Joseph Stephen.
In the past, interviews regarding sexual abuse or assault cases were conducted at a detective’s desk or in a standard interrogation room furnished only with two chairs and a desk.
Being inside a cold room or busy office can add to the trauma already inflicted on a victim, Stephen said.
The comfort room includes a couch and other living room furnishings, a flat-screen TV and DVD player. It became a safe haven for a woman who had been kidnapped at gunpoint and sexually assaulted in late July.
Detectives interviewed the woman in the comfort room and subsequently made an arrest.
“It was a perfect environment for her to sit and relax,” Stephen said.
“It couldn’t have been more perfect. Our detectives were thrilled,” Lt. Matthew Squire told Maurer when she visited the station recently.
“ The room is a great resource,” Lt. Robert Wiard said. “The rape victim took a nap and was very comfortable in this room. It gave her privacy, and she was able to gather her thoughts in a comfortable environment.”
The room also became a sanctuary for a 17-year-old girl who had been abducted by a transient in Malibu in June, and it provided a soothing setting for two children who had been taken into protective custody three weeks ago after their mother was arrested on Pacific Coast Highway for driving while impaired.
“ The woman had kids in her car,” Wiard said. “She was arrested for drunk driving and child endangerment. We brought the kids here, and they got a chance to relax and watch TV.”
The television and DVD player were provided by the City of Calabasas. An anonymous donor from The Oaks community in Calabasas donated the furniture through the Home Consignment Center in the Summit at Calabasas shopping center, and the Friends of the Calabasas Library donated books and DVDs.
The Oaks community in Calabasas donated games and toys.
“The Oaks community played a large role in setting up the comfort room with items that make it relaxing,” Maurer said.
A nonprofit called Turn Kindness On, run by The Oaks resident Mandy Ellen, will replace toys and games as needed.
Stephen said similar comfort rooms are essential for all sheriff’s and police stations. But due to lack of funding, law enforcement agencies have been putting these types of projects on the back burner.
“However, with the help of Maurer and her resources, we were able to open a nice comfort room which has been used at least once a week,” the captain said. “We thank her for her vision and foresight to think of something like that.”