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Local News

Police Chief Says Realignment to Blame for Rise in Santa Barbara Crime

Cam Sanchez tells the City Council that burglaries in particular are increasing since the state process was implemented

The early release of state prisoners through realignment has contributed to higher crime rates in the city, Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez told the City Council on Tuesday.

In his regular report to the council, Sanchez said one of the reasons for more “Part 1” crimes — including homicide, rape, assault, robbery and burglary -— is the number of offenders in the community who otherwise would still be locked up.

There were 3,290 Part 1 crimes in 2011, which increased to 3,616 for 2012, he said.

Burglaries in particular have been high recently, he said, and police haven’t solved any of the 35 residential break-ins that occurred in December.

Those include both daytime and nighttime burglaries, some while people were at home.

“In Santa Barbara in November, 50 percent of the arrests we made for burglars were folks who, if not for realignment by the state, would have still been in custody,” Sanchez said. “It should be a concern for all of us.”

Sanchez said his department is working with San Luis Obispo and Ventura county agencies to put together data on the offenders, working to show the state that realignment — a cost-saving process developed by the state — “may not have been a great idea at the end of the day.”

Police have had more success getting arrests with commercial burglaries, where many businesses have security cameras or fingerprints are left behind.

Law enforcement agencies have great relationships with pawn shops in the city and county, which are trained to report suspicious items to police, Sanchez added.

Keeping with a trend the last six years, more than 90 percent of vehicle burglaries in December happened when a car was unlocked, running, or had the keys left in it.

“December was a very, very tough month for us,” Sanchez said.

He plans to shift some personnel to help Sgt. Dan McGrew and the property crimes detectives with their cases.
 
In other staffing changes, the department announced a Criminal Impact Team this week, which includes a supervisor and four officers to investigate serious crimes committed by career criminals, as well as crime trends.

Last year’s police calls for service totaled 39,112, with an average 27.5-minute response time overall.

For Priority 1 calls — which may result in injury or death — the department averaged a 6.2-minute response time, close to its goal of six minutes. The department had an average response time of 13 minutes for Priority 2 calls last year.

There were 25 gang incidents in December, according to department data, but 18 were categorized as “other.”

Those crimes can range from graffiti to a non-gang-related drunk-in-public charges, as long as they are committed by someone associated with a gang, Sanchez said.

Councilwoman Cathy Murillo said she wasn’t comfortable with that, and wanted to discuss it later, since the charge itself doesn’t have to be gang-related to be counted in that data.

Some public speakers and council members also brought up the city’s ongoing attempt to get a gang injunction against 30 named individuals, alleged members of the Eastside or Westside criminal street gangs in Santa Barbara.

The civil suit, which still hasn’t gone to trial, is being handled by Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne.

Attorneys on both sides are waiting on a decision from Juvenile Court Judge Thomas Adams, who will determine whether defendant juvenile arrest records can be used in this case.

The city has to prove there are two criminal street gangs, that the city is entitled to an injunction, and that the 30 named people are involved with them and should be restrained, City Attorney Steve Wiley said.

Opponents have said the injunction opens police up to racial profiling, but Wiley and Sanchez said the process would only apply to the named individuals.

“The words racial profiling make me ill,” said Sanchez, who added that anyone worried about the matter can make a complaint to the department’s Internal Affairs division.

Every complaint – even anonymous ones – is investigated, and none has affirmed racial profiling during his 13 years with the department, Sanchez said.

The department has a watch commander on duty at all times, who can be reached at 805.897.2376 with concerns or complaints.

Recently, calls have been coming in about officers “staking out” areas on the Westside to catch undocumented drivers.

Sanchez said the motorcycle officers in those spots – near Foodland and Super Cuca’s, for example – are there because of accident history and high pedestrian flow from students going to school.

Those officers are a big part of the school crossing process, he said.

Sanchez also spoke briefly about the work his department is doing with local schools after the shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Police have had an active-shooter policy for about 10 years, and every patrol car has maps and blueprints of city schools, he said.

The department used to make every sworn member go on walk-throughs of the campuses, and will be doing so again soon for all the new employees, Sanchez added.

Sanchez has been meeting with Santa Barbara Unified School District officials and other districts within city limits to enhance safety plans. He guarantees that the department is ready for such an event, he said.

“We plan for the worst and hope for the best,” he said.

He wound up his presentation Tuesday with updates for the Citizens Academy and Coffee with a Cop, where citizens can show up and ask questions of police officers.

The next dates are 8:30 a.m. Jan. 22 at the McDonald’s at 29 S. Milpas St. and 10 a.m. Feb. 19 at the Starbucks at 208 W. Carrillo St.

The current Eastside Citizens Academy will hold a graduation ceremony for its 56 graduates at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Franklin Community Center.

Another academy will start sometime in February, and the department plans to hold it in both English and Spanish on the Westside.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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