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Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 4:39 am | Fair 38º


Santa Barbara Council Approves Funding for Community Service Officers to Patrol Downtown

State Street will see an increased security force in the downtown area after the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved funding for community service officers to help police the area.

The council approved moving $150,000 in funding toward 7.5 part-time positions that would fall under the umbrella of the Santa Barbara Police Department.

The officers would have the authority to issue citations, wear uniforms similar to sworn police officers and would act as a visible security presence for the downtown area.

Police Chief Cam Sanchez and Deputy Chief Frank Mannix were on hand to brief the council on Tuesday.

Mannix said the department currently has community service liaisons who wear yellow shirts and interact with downtown business owners and act as "the eyes and ears of the Police Department" but can't actually issue citations.

A community service officer would be different because he or she could enforce low-level violations and issue citations and would work for the department.

Whether to hire more "yellow shirts," contract with private security guards, hire an additional police officer or put more officers on overtime to police the area were all options, but the council eventually decided on hiring community service officers.

During public comment, about a dozen people came out in support of the move.

Maggie Campbell, executive director for the Downtown Organization, said the group supports the idea.

"This is very much a step in the right direction," she said, adding that changing the environment on State Street and educating the public would also be key to success.

Sgt. Mike McGrew of the Santa Barbara Police Officers Association said the group supports the CSO option, but the council should also look at hiring another police officer as well.

Bob Stout, owner of the Wildcat Lounge, said he, too, was supportive of the plan and that it might help deal with the aggressive "urban travelers" who have been a focus of police enforcement.

"I think a uniformed presence would go a long way," he said.

The Greater Santa Barbara Lodging and Restaurant Association, the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce and others also issued support.

"The CSO may give us a dedicated presence that won't have to be called away to other parts of town," Councilman Randy Rowse said.

Rowse proposed an ad hoc committee be formed to decide on performance measures "so we can help to monitor this," he said.

Councilwoman Cathy Murillo said she didn't support the oversight committee, because she wanted the council to keep conducting oversight of the CSOs.

"This is a big deal for me to support this when there are so many other needs in the city," she said, adding that the city is doing much for the downtown area already. "I enjoy being downtown ... and I don't appreciate exaggeration from anyone."

Council members also discussed looking at funding more police officers, but are likely to do so during next year's budget session.

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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