Thursday, October 18 , 2018, 12:25 am | Fair 55º


Frank Hotchkiss: Santa Barbara at a Crossroads with Hostile Vagrants

At the Santa Barbara City Council meeting last Tuesday, police Capt. Alex Altavilla said transients on State Street could — and often did — ignore admonitions from the police to stop hassling passers-by.

Frank Hotchkiss Click to view larger
Frank Hotchkiss

“There’s not a lot we can do ...,” he said. “We can request that they move along, and they say, ‘No, we’re not going to.’”

Chief Lori Luhnow added, “I’m not going to promote a culture of bullying ...”

At that point it occurred to me that we must be living in the Land of Oz, where police don’t “bully” thugs and transients. Instead, thugs and transients bully the police.

What’s wrong with this picture? It’s truly a world upside down.

I and a few of my colleagues have long sought to clean up State Street and other locations, including our parks, waterfront and lower Milpas Street, from anyone threatening others or behaving uncivilly. Anything that would make you reluctant to go anywhere in the city, because of foul language or erratic or dangerous behavior, is wrong.

In the last few years, we have added uniformed people to deal with this, but the problem persists. Now we must do more.

I am considering running for mayor this fall. If successful, one of my strongest efforts will be to stiffen enforcement of existing laws and increase police presence in those areas now burdened with hostile vagrants and transients.

An important part of this effort will be the attitude we encourage among our peace officers: to follow the law strictly and enforce it vigorously when it comes to transient visitors who take advantage of our generosity and hospitality to the detriment of residents.

In other words, ticket or arrest vagrants acting illegally, over and over again if necessary. Ensure their dogs, if they have any, are properly licensed, and if not, take them to the pound. Warn them that loud and offensive language disturbs the peace, and they can’t do that in Santa Barbara.

Our city belongs to the people who live here, and not to those passing through who flout our customs with uncivil behavior. Our police need your encouragement to have a stiffer backbone and accomplish the task.

As a city councilman, I would like to hear what you think: Am I on the right track — or not?

Please email me at [email protected], or click here to vote online.

In advance, thank you for your advice.

Frank Hotchkiss is a Santa Barbara city councilman. The opinions expressed are his own.

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