Santa Barbara police captains Todd Stoney and Alex Altavilla at the City Council (Nov. 22, 2016)
Paul Wellman

The frequency of car burglaries has more than doubled the last two years, with 237 break-ins reported by this time in 2014 and nearly 500 incidents documented so far this year, police captains Todd Stoney and Alex Altavilla told the City Council this Tuesday.

To blame, the captains said, are car owners leaving their vehicles unlocked and their valuables in plain view, and new state laws that have reduced jail time for certain lower-level offenders. The police often know the identities of repeat car burglars, but do not have the means to keep them in custody and off the streets, Stoney said.

In addition to developing new enforcement strategies, which Altavilla said he didn’t want to make public, police have also put together a public awareness campaign, including a TV spot that reminds people to lock their cars and hide or cover their possessions.

Stoney and Altavilla also updated the council on City College’s SNAP (Student Neighborhood Assistance Program), recently formed to curtail noise and nuisance complaints in Mesa neighborhoods. The department has identified a number candidates to fill the noise patrol enforcement team, mostly SBCC and UCSB students, who are undergoing interviews and background checks. Stoney said patrols will hit the streets on the first day of City College’s spring semester.

Shifting focus, councilmember Cathy Murillo asked if the department would translate Chief Lori Luhnow’s recent public message to undocumented immigrants into Spanish and broadcast it through the Spanish-speaking media. Murillo said hearing Luhnow’s assurances directly, that Santa Barbara’s police force is not interested in the immigration status of residents, would go a long way in assuaging worries among the Latino community that president-elect Donald Trump will leverage local law enforcement to carry out his promises of mass deportations. Altavilla agreed a translation would be a good idea.

City Attorney Ariel Calonne clarified for the council that the chief could not promise the department’s policies would not change in the future, only that current protocols don’t include asking for or documenting the immigration status of residents contacted by police officers.


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