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Rape, Robbery, Property Crimes Down in Santa Barbara; Police Undergoing ‘Implicit Bias Training’

Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow Click to view larger
Lori Luhnow

Santa Barbara’s violent crime is up slightly, but property crimes are down 19 percent, according to a report presented to the Santa Barbara City Council.

Police Chief Lori Luhnow gave a monthly crime update on Tuesday, during which she revealed statistics about 2017. She noted that overall gamg crime was also down.

Police officers made contact with 74,851 people. From those interactions, authorities filled out 17,001 reports.

The department made 3,524 arrests in which they took people into custody; it issued 4,389 citations, which was down 34 percent.

Luhnow said the decrease in citations was a deliberate attempt to give warnings instead of citations.

Whether it’s skateboarders or people who are drunk in public, she said, the department has been like a hamster on a wheel in terms of issuing citations and that it was time to step back and try something different.

“We use our resources a little more strategically,” Luhnow. “We are looking for those longer-lasting solutions.”

Still, as Councilman Jason Dominguez peppered her with questions about what model she was using or what other cities she was looking at to make a decision to warn instead of cite, Luhnow responded: “We don’t have a strategy not to cite people.”

In the area of violent crime, the city saw a 35-percent decrease in rape and a13-percent drop in robbery. Aggravated assaults, which often involve the use of a weapon, were up 20 percent.

Property crime, however, experienced a 19-percent decrease. Overall, residents reported 2,579 incidents.

There was a 19 percent decrease in burglary, 32 percent decrease in burglary theft from a vehicle, 16 percent decrease in other theft and a 4 percent increase in grand theft auto.

In 2017, there were 125 gang-related incidents (crimes committed, but not for the benefit of the gang), an 8-percent drop. Authorities documented 34 gang incidents (crimes committed for the benefit off the gang), a 39-percent decrease.

The department is reviewing its “use of force” policy, and officers are undergoing “implicit bias” training, a label that Luhnow said she doesn’t like. She doesn’t want to call it “use of force.”

“We need to start changing the narrative to a de-escalation model,” Luhnow said. “What is most important to me is that we have a police department that is committed to treating people fairly.”

Councilman Gregg Hart agreed.

“I am very proud of Santa Barbara that we aren’t thought of as a city that has terrible problems with this,” Hart said.

Mayor Cathy Murillo said she was proud of the Police Department.

“You are doing a great job,” Murillo said. “The report here shows the new culture you have created and the increasing morale.”

As for staffing, the department has 211 positions authorized and 207 filled. Of sworn officers, the department has 142 authorized and 139 filled. Of those, 15 are in training.

Councilman Randy Rowse joked about a recent graduating class of police recruits that he observed:

“There’s not a donut-eater in the bunch,” Rowse said. “That is an amazing group of people.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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