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Santa Barbara Police, SBCC Partner Up for Noise Complaints Response Team

New program will use students employed through the police department as first responders to Mesa-area noise complaints

The Santa Barbara Police Department and Santa Barbara City College are working together to implement a new program that aims to limit noise-disturbance issues in Mesa neighborhoods from student parties.

The Student Neighborhood Assistance Program, or SNAP, will consist of students employed through the Police Department who will be the first responders to noise-disturbance calls.  

Noise complaints are a common issue on the Mesa near the community college, especially since students are frequently living next to families since there are no designated dorms or on-campus housing.

SNAP will be a small work-unit within the police department and will be comprised entirely of students, who are non-sworn hourly employees, according to the city.

This program will be the first response to noise disturbance calls and SNAP will give warnings and place houses on a “no-warning list” instead of issuing out immediate citations. If the houses on the “no-warning list” receive another call, only then will they be ticketed and visited by police officers. 

The city says SNAP will allow officers freedom to respond to more pressing calls, rather than focusing on noise complaints.

“Normally officers respond, and if they respond, an administrative citation would be issued,” said Sgt. Riley Harwood of the Santa Barbara Police Department.

“Instead, the SNAP personnel will be our first responders to noise violations and complaints. In the case of college students, we have found that they prefer their contact or first warning to come from a peer-to peer setting.”

The idea for SNAP first came up in 2014 after the Neighborhood Task Force addressed how noise complaints were affecting residents’ quality of life. The Neighborhood Task Force was formed through SBCC to identify problems close to or concerning the local community college.

This new change to noise disturbance policy has been a long time coming because “the traditional way of dealing with noise complaints was falling short with regard to deterring future occurrences,” Harwood said. “We had some significant problems with quality of life impacted by noise disturbances, particularly in areas surrounding the city college.” 

The SBCC Task Force went through several options before looking at the SNAP model that is in effect at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Those involved in the Task Force met with officers at the San Luis Obispo Police Department, community members and college faculty to better understand the program.

“Overall it has been really successful in not only addressing noise issues in a timely manner, but also creating more community well-being,” said SBCC spokesperson Luz Reyes-Martin of the SNAP model at Cal Poly. “Residents can get to know students and more students can take responsibility for issues they might be contributing to in the community.”

SBCC hopes this program will help educate their students about community respect and provide opportunities for real-life experience within law-enforcement.

The Santa Barbara City Council approved the program in April and since then, the Santa Barbara Police Department and SBCC have been working to get things off the ground. 

The majority of SNAP responsibility will fall to the police academy, but Reyes-Martin said, “Santa Barbara City College is committed to the success of this program and demonstrating to the community that we’re invested in these solutions on the Mesa.”

The City Council approved a grant agreement and its half of funding at this week's meeting. ​SBCC contributed the other half of the start-up costs for the program, around $103,000.  

Noozhawk intern Sarah Scarminach 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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