Although crime rates within Santa Barbara city limits have been down or holding steady the last three months compared to the same period a year ago, calls for police service have increased substantially — by about 1,500 year to date.
As a result, response times to all but the most serious crimes now exceed maximum departmental objectives. Contributing to the problem, said police spokesperson Sergeant Riley Harwood, has been a significant number of lateral transfers by Santa Barbara officers into other agencies, characterized by Harwood as being “closer to home.”
As the economic recession has given way to the recovery, Harwood said other departments are now in a better position to compete for trained officers and new recruits. In addition, he suggested the post-Ferguson fallout may have had a chilling effect on individuals considering a career in law enforcement.
Santa Barbara has experienced one murder this year, that of a homeless man beaten to death near the homeless shelter. Aggravated assaults — made up primarily of domestic violence and downtown bar fights — are holding steady though down slightly. Thirteen rapes have been reported so far this year, down from 15 in 2014, 22 in 2012, and up from 4 in 2013.
Burglaries — both residential and commercial — are down 11 and 42 percent from the previous two years. By contrast, car burglaries are up 63 percent year to date. Gang incidents and gang-related incidents, strikingly, are down to five-year lows. Police report eight gang incidents occurred from March through May, and 13 occurred year to date. Last year, that number was 22, and in 2011, it was 113.
Transient-involved street crime, however, has jumped significantly to 2,859 year to date compared to 2,504 the year before and 1,527 the year before that. Lastly, arrests for heroin and methamphetamine over the past three months have been running about twice their five-year monthly averages.