Millions of Calls

A news brief in your last issue reports that Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez said, “Santa Barbara’s homeless account for only one-tenth of one percent of all reported crime.” [“Law and Disorder,” 11/21/12,.]

One tenth of one percent means one in a thousand. Anyone who reads crime reports in any of the local publications would know this can’t be correct. Further, an article in the May 12, 2011 Independent notes that a survey of 932 homeless individuals (corresponding to about one percent of the population of the city of Santa Barbara, and certainly not including all the homeless in Santa Barbara) concluded that 77% of these individuals had spent time in jail in the past year. [“Homeless Crime Wave: Perception or Reality?“].

I’m sure you will agree that the incarceration rate for housed residents of Santa Barbara is much less than 77%, so the percent of reported crime committed by the homeless is accordingly much more than one percent – not a tenth of one percent.

This quote is so obviously incorrect that either Chief Sanchez or your reporter is numerically challenged. I would hope that you would publish a correction with the actual percentage of reported crime ascribed to homeless people. – Donald E. Polk, Santa Barbara

Editor’s Note: SBPD spokesman Sgt. Riley Harwood clarified that Chief Sanchez was exaggerating to make the point that the homeless commit a small amount of crime compared to the percentage of police resources they attract. Sitting in front of businesses, asking for money, and doing unpleasant things are not illegal. Nevertheless, they impact businesses, and though the response may not be immediate, said Harwood, “If you call a cop, you get a cop.”

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