Members of the public will no longer be able to wander onto the Santa Barbara Police Department parking lot as they have been able to for decades, thanks to a $215,000 grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security. The money will pay for the installation of three metal gates to block public ingress and egress. Department personnel will soon activate the gates via punch code. According to Joe Guzardi, emergency planning specialist with the County of Santa Barbara, federal funding guidelines allow local agencies “to harden critical facilities” at Homeland Security’s expense. The lot is used to park squad cars, departmental vehicles, and the personal vehicles of some staff. “It’s supposed to be a secure space,” said police spokesperson Sgt. Riley Harwood. “Over the years, we’ve had cars tampered with.” In one instance, he said, a police department bicycle was stolen. The thief was never caught, though years later he did send a note of apology. Harwood suggested the note was part of the perpetrator’s 12-step work in which individuals seeking sobriety apologize to those against whom they’ve transgressed.
Since 1999, the County of Santa Barbara has received approximately $8.5 million in Homeland Security Grants. Of that, the Santa Barbara Police Department received a grant of $243,000 to purchase a “Bear Cat” armored vehicle typically used by SWAT teams when plowing into fortified bunkers used by drug dealers. In addition, Homeland Security purchased a set of closed-circuit TV cameras for the city’s Waterfront Department to better monitor activities in the harbor. The most expensive purchases went to equip county helicopters with high-definition cameras, build a signal-relay station on Santa Ynez Peak, and then stock the Emergency Operations Center with the necessary equipment. The cameras can be used for drug emergency-search operations, drug surveillance, and forest-fire scouting work.