Santa Barbara Police Department announces more State Street patrols
There will now be an increased police presence in the downtown corridor of Santa Barbara and the State Street Promenade, effective immediately.
The Santa Barbara Police Department announced on Tuesday that with businesses reopening and COVID restrictions lifting, it will assign additional officers directly to these downtown areas on an indefinite basis. The officers will be assigned to foot, bicycle and/or motorcycle patrol.
They will be patrolling on duty seven days a week, between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday and from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Evening officers will have the primary responsibility of handling nightlife issues that may stem from the reopening of many bars, nightclubs and restaurants.
“Public safety is our number one goal, we want everyone to enjoy downtown and the Promenade, now that most pandemic restrictions have been lifted and a sense of normalcy is returning to our community,” the department said in a press release.
Business owners in the 500 block and beyond had been sounding the alarm for more of a police presence in the area, mainly due to concerns of homeless individuals committing crimes, along with the general increase in crime as nightlife establishments reopen. However, Interim Police Chief Bernard Melekian told the News-Press that transforming the department’s patrols had been a priority long before reopening efforts began.
“I think that in this case, the three biggest patrolling challenges facing us are — in no particular order — the issue of safety and security on State Street, homeless encampments in the parks and in high fire areas and neighborhood traffic concerns,” the chief said. “So, we’re trying to address all three of those by moving people around.”
He added, though, that department staff is down 24%, presenting challenges in moving officers around. The chief said the number of officers patrolling will vary depending on the time of day and the level of activity, but with additional patrols, combined with the city’s ambassadors and the police department’s VIP program, this should “significantly increase our presence in the downtown corridor.”
He told the News-Press last week that he agrees that the nightlife on State Street is becoming an issue as businesses reopen and people return to dining and drinking at night. The chief said that the police department has been getting many requests for service in recent weeks, based on listening to the radio and monitoring the call board.
Many of the business owners in the 500 block told the News-Press they wanted an additional police presence to keep their customers and employees safe, and hoped for long-term solutions for the homeless population in the area as well.
“I want people to know that this issue of pivoting to … a specific-problem oriented approach, means that as the nature of the problems change, the nature of the police department’s attention and resources will change,” Chief Melekian said. “We’re not going to be able to do all things for everybody, but we are going to address the issues that are put in front of us.”