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Local News

Police Chief Cam Sanchez Delivers Extensive Monthly Update to Santa Barbara Council

Agenda includes property crimes and dashboard cameras, and he touches on but keeps relatively mum about two controversial DUI cases

Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez gave a packed monthly update to the City Council on Tuesday, touching on a host of issues, from a rash of burglaries in the community to new dashboard cameras for the department’s patrol cars.

Police Chief Cam Sanchez
Police Chief Cam Sanchez (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)

Sanchez said the Police Department has seen a drop in violent crime in the city, but an uptick in property crimes, such as burglaries. He said a series of burglaries of summer rentals were linked to thieves who traveled up from Los Angeles, breaking into the empty homes to steal expensive items such as flat-screen televisions. The department’s Detective Bureau is holding more neighborhood watch meetings to help combat the crimes.

“A lot of these crimes are opportunistic issues,” he said. “We’re trying to do the best we can.”

When Sanchez noted that there were zero homicides in 2011, Mayor Helene Schneider asked about a homeless woman who was burned alive last November while she slept in a storage yard on Santa Barbara’s Lower Eastside.

Sanchez said the case was still under investigation, but “we are not looking at it as a homicide at this point.”

He also mentioned the New Year’s Eve assault downtown believed to be a hate crime, when two men were assaulted by three men who reportedly made remarks about the pair being gay just before the attack.

“We’re working towards bringing someone to justice on that,” Sanchez told the City Council. “Clearly this was an attack on individuals from the gay community. We’re hoping to send the message that hate is hate, no matter who it’s against.”

Sanchez also said the department is looking at multiple vendors to outfit its patrol cars with cameras. Currently, Santa Barbara and Guadalupe are the only cities in Santa Barbara County that do not have cameras in their patrol cars.

Each camera would cost about $6,5000, totaling $225,000 to outfit the entire patrol fleet.

“It’s an expensive item, but I believe an item that is necessary,” Sanchez said, adding that he isn’t sure where the funding would come from, but the department could work with the Santa Barbara Police Foundation to fund the cameras in the future.

He also touched briefly on some of the controversies facing the department, but he didn’t divulge any details.

Regarding the case of Tony Denunzio, the man stopped on suspicion of DUI who alleges excessive force was used by a police officer, Sanchez said only that the DUI case would be heard in Santa Maria.

“I can’t really get into any more specifics,” he told the council.

Sanchez took a similar tone regarding the case of Peter Lance, who was stopped on suspicion of DUI last January and accused the Police Department of misconduct. The case was later dismissed by Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Brian Hill. Sanchez said Lance has an upcoming DMV hearing, and added only that the department is expecting litigation.

Sanchez also mentioned the case of Karen Flores, the former Santa Barbara Police Department business manager suspected of embezzling more than $200,000 from the department. The case is ongoing, and the county District Attorney’s Office is working to determine the full extent of the losses. Sanchez called the incident “tragic and very disappointing.”

“It happened on my watch, and I apologize,” he said.

Sanchez took a more positive note by telling the council that an increase in beat coordinators is on the way. Beginning this Saturday, the department will have four beat coordinators, up from its current one.

He also mentioned attending last Saturday’s THRIVE Westside meeting, where police spoke with Westside residents.

“We set the tone for some really great things,” he said, adding that the interest in starting a neighborhood watch was clear from the meeting. He said seven Westside children also signed up for the Police Activities League during the event.

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.

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