Friday, July 1 , 2016, 7:15 am | Fog/Mist 61º

  • Follow Noozhawk on LinkedIn
  • Follow Noozhawk on Pinterest
  • Follow Noozhawk on YouTube
 
 
 
 

Local News

Santa Barbara Police Talk with Downtown Merchants About Homeless Issues

Officers say stricter enforcement and programs such as Restorative Policing are making a difference on State Street

Merchants in downtown Santa Barbara on Thursday heard police officials share what they’re doing to address panhandling, homelessness and other hot-button issues that pop up throughout the State Street corridor.

The Downtown Organization hosted a town hall meeting at the Santa Barbara Library, andthree of four beat coordinators of the department’s recently revived program were present, including Officer Kasi Beutel.

State Street sits squarely within Beutel’s beat, and she has been working to crack down on everything from unruly dogs to skateboarding on streets and sidewalks. Skateboarding is prohibited on State Street from Sola Street to the beach, and violations carry a hefty $155 fine, which Beutel has been handing out assiduously.

Officer Keld Hove was also on hand, and spoke about the work he’s been doing with Santa Barbara’s homeless. Hove spearheads the Restorative Policing program, and is an amalgam of police officer, social worker and cheerleader for those looking to move off the streets.

Hove said that while Santa Barbara is a draw for the homeless because of weather and services, he’s heard people in multiple cities across the state say the homeless are drawn to their locales, too.

“It’s a common belief, and I believe these individuals are drifters,” he said.

A Restorative Court program was started a year ago to deal with the constant stream of homeless offenders, usually the same dozen or so people, who come in with minor offenses such as open alcohol container and urinating in public.

The restorative court dismisses those charges if the person doesn’t reoffend for six months.

“When you have someone who cannot change their behavior, it doesn’t matter how much the stick starts whacking them,” he said. “They need a carrot.”

Since the start of the program, they’ve seen 107 people, including 27 deemed vulnerable by the Common Ground vulnerability index. Hove said that 22 people chose to clean up and reunited with family, 50 were placed in programs such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and 14 were housed.

Twenty-six opted out of the program and chose to go back to the streets, but Hove said the placements they were able to make have taken a tremendous burden off the court system.

Sgt. Ed Olsen also spoke, and said that the beat coordinators, including Beutel, are “experts of the neighborhood.”

“If you have a problem that is occurring, call 911,” he said. “If there’s a chronic problem call your beat coordinator.”

Questions were also taken, and several concerns were expressed from Lower State Street hotel employees who say they’ve had to endure more than their fair share of noise from neighboring bars. Olsen said that the department’s Nightlife Enforcement Team continues to work to crack down on offenders in the Lower State area. One woman asked why there are only two officers who work that beat now, as opposed to the four there used to be. 

Olsen said that two officers were being funded with a grant that expired, so now two remain. Those positions could be staff, but resources would be pulled away from efforts such as those of the beat coordinators.

“We have to look at where we’re getting the most bang for our buck,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk's intent is not to limit the discussion of our stories but to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and must be free of profanity and abusive language and attacks.

By posting on Noozhawk, you:

» Agree to be respectful. Noozhawk encourages intelligent and impassioned discussion and debate, but now has a zero-tolerance policy for those who cannot express their opinions in a civil manner.

» Agree not to use Noozhawk’s forums for personal attacks. This includes any sort of personal attack — including, but not limited to, the people in our stories, the journalists who create these stories, fellow readers who comment on our stories, or anyone else in our community.

» Agree not to post on Noozhawk any comments that can be construed as libelous, defamatory, obscene, profane, vulgar, harmful, threatening, tortious, harassing, abusive, hateful, sexist, racially or ethnically objectionable, or that are invasive of another’s privacy.

» Agree not to post in a manner than emulates, purports or pretends to be someone else. Under no circumstances are readers posting to Noozhawk to knowingly use the name or identity of another person, whether that is another reader on this site, a public figure, celebrity, elected official or fictitious character. This also means readers will not knowingly give out any personal information of other members of these forums.

» Agree not to solicit others. You agree you will not use Noozhawk’s forums to solicit and/or advertise for personal blogs and websites, without Noozhawk’s express written approval.

Noozhawk’s management and editors, in our sole discretion, retain the right to remove individual posts or to revoke the access privileges of anyone who we believe has violated any of these terms or any other term of this agreement; however, we are under no obligation to do so.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >