In his monthly address to the City Council, Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez reported that gang violence in Santa Barbara is down, that crimes against persons are holding steady, but that property crimes — particularly burglaries against parked cars — has taken off. Larceny, theft, and vehicle theft are up 20 percent from this month last year and 11 percent from the year before that. Sanchez said many of these are crimes of opportunity and cautioned people to keep their car doors locked. He said the department has just met its six-minute response time goal for priority one crimes — crimes still in progress — for the month of January, but was a few seconds off the previous two months.
Sanchez reported that the department’s new restorative policing team — hired to address homeless-related street crime — managed to connect at least 12 longtime homeless residents — with 600 combined citations between them — with their families in other cities throughout the state and country. He also said that Officer Kasi Beutel — the former DUI specialist targeted by freelance writer Peter Lance in Santa Barbara News-Press reports last summer — is cracking down on sidewalk skateboard riders on State Street as well as scofflaw bike riders. Beutel, Sanchez said, has already written more citations for such offenses than the department did all last year. (Downtown merchants had clamored for greater enforcement, particularly against sidewalk skateboarders.)
In response to a question from Councilmember Cathy Murillo — a former Santa Barbara Independent reporter — Sanchez stated that gang violence was down, but provided no statistical detail. “We are never not going to be aggressive against gang violence,” he declared. Sanchez was interrupted by Lieutenant Alex Altavilla as he sought to describe departmental efforts to apprehend the bandit who’d robbed three parking lot attendants. Altavilla had just learned that a suspect had been arrested, prompting Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss to ask, “Did you time that?” Sanchez responded, “I need all the positive press I can get at this point.”