Tuesday, May 31 , 2016, 11:01 pm | Overcast 58º

Santa Barbara Crime Rates Down as Police Continue Focus on Downtown Corridor

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

Santa Barbara’s violent and property crime rates are far below national trends and at five-year lows, Police Chief Cam Sanchez said Tuesday during his regular update to the City Council.

Property crimes peaked in 2012, and so far this year, rates are as low as he’s ever seen them during his 15 years with the city, Sanchez said

He credits the department’s proactive efforts to look for chronic offenders, check in with parolees, and do directed patrols in the downtown State Street corridor.

A so-called criminal impact team searches for people with serious warrants and checks in on parolees released to the area. The group’s attention works as a deterrent, and the enforcement work has resulted in many arrests, including suspects in several burglars, Sanchez said.

Since March, the SBPD has directed a lot of its resources into the State Street corridor, specifically the 600 block between Ortega and Cota streets, to deal with transient and homeless-related issues.

Police received 22 percent fewer calls for service from that area this April compared with last year.

“We’re really inundating the downtown corridor,” Sanchez said.

There were four large homeless encampment cleanups on last Saturday, coordinated with the city’s Public Works Department, and there are plans for more.

“They move all the time,” Sanchez said. “When we clean them up, they basically move somewhere else.”

A tactical patrol team does a 4 a.m. wakeup call in the camps every morning, he added.

Beat coordinators, who are each assigned to a different area of the city, have been reassigned to do daily foot patrols of the downtown corridor since the City Council and Police Department made State Street enforcement a priority.

School resource officer Christina Marshall will join them for the summer before heading back to the Santa Barbara High School campus.

There was a concentration of issues around The Habit at 628 State St., but activity there has “decreased quite a bit,” Sanchez said.

The city put yellow tape around the brick bench sculpture near the restaurant at the start of this increased police presence and has since replaced the tape with a short chain-link fence to prevent people from sitting on it.

Some other benches have been removed, Sanchez said.

He also updated the City Council on the restorative policing and restorative court programs, which help direct people to social services, and the department’s plans to expand police education programs in local elementary schools.

The Gang Resistance Education and Training Program will partner with the Santa Barbara Unified School District this fall for a pilot project, Sanchez said.

An officer will give short presentations to third- and fifth-grade students and engage parents on a weekly basis in this effort to have early intervention to elementary-school children.

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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