Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.
This week’s question: Does the city still have community service officers and if so, where do they hide? I have not seen any downtown for months.
— Jay Smith, Santa Barbara
The short answer is, no.
In 2015, Santa Barbara rolled out its new policing program of community service officers, colloquially called “blue shirts” for their uniforms, and community service liaisons, “yellow shirts,” to provide more of a law enforcement presence downtown and reduce nuisance crimes.
The CSOs had authority to hand out citations, wore uniforms similar to sworn officers, and were meant to be a visible police presence downtown.
The liaisons cannot issue citations, but were tasked to interact with business owners and be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for the Police Department downtown.
The CSO program ended about a year ago, and there is currently one community service liaison working for the Santa Barbara Police Department, said Sgt. Bryan Jensen, a supervisor with the neighborhood policing unit, who oversees the liaison program.
There were four CSOs at the time the program ended, Jensen added.
The city and the department have started new programs to increased enforcement and the law enforcement presence downtown to address complaints from businesses.
The department started a Downtown Ambassador program and volunteer policing program last year, and recently received anti-smoking grant funding that will partially fund more police officers and ambassador employees to patrol the State Street area.
The Downtown Ambassador program has red-shirted employees engage with businesses and visitors to address issues relating nuisance behavior, maintenance and aesthetics. Ambassadors patrol State Street from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
The program replaced the CSOs, but ambassadors do not write citations, and have different job duties, Jensen noted.
They have different names and uniform colors, he said, but the department is working to provide the best service to the community.
The 11 Volunteers in Policing, who wear grey shirts with police patches and a badge, have been patrolling State Street, Milpas Street, Cabrillo Boulevard and other areas of the city since that program started a year ago, Jensen added.
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.