The Santa Barbara City Council received a presentation Tuesday from Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow on the status of the police department and its operations.
Overall, total violent crimes were up 6% in 2020 compared to 2019 (557 in 2019 compared to 592 in 2020), while total property crimes were down 1% (2,237 in 2020, 2,256 in 2019) over the same time period, according to Chief Luhnow.
Violent crimes such as homicide (up 50%, from two in 2019 to three in 2020), robbery (up 3%, from 86 in 2019 to 89 in 2020), and aggravated assault (up 13%, from 383 in 2019 to 433 in 2020), all increased.
Crimes such as rape were down 22% over the same time period (86 reported in 2019, 67 in 2020).
For property crimes, burglary or theft from a vehicle increased 13% from 2019 to 2020 (457 in 2019, 516 in 2020), and grand theft auto increased by 23% (196 in 2019 to 242 in 2020).
Property crimes that decreased included: residential burglaries (down 24%, 129 in 2019, 98 in 2020); commercial burglaries (down 21%, 137 in 2019, 108 in 2020); arson (down 12%, 17 in 2019, 15 in 2020); and other theft (down 5%, 1,320 in 2019, 1,258 in 2020).
In addition, police dispatch received a .34% increase in priority one calls in 2020 than in 2019, but all other types of calls decreased.
In 2019, the department reported 37 gang offenses and 53 arrests. In 2020, there were 38 gang offenses and 61 arrests.
Chief Luhnow discussed the department’s adoption of a 21st century policing philosophy, which is already in place, and includes: police legitimacy, procedural justice, requiring the reading of the task force report and including community members on hiring and promotional panels. She also mentioned a new, customizable personnel management system called Guardian Tracker, which will automate personnel records, allow for thresholds/early warning systems and recognize successes and improvements.
The police chief also mentioned that in light of recent violence, the department’s Community Accountability Manager has been a liaison to the Oversight Formation Committee and a member of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement and the education and standards committee.
The manager provides oversight of professional standards, auditing and body worn camera outreach, mandated reporting, academic and community partnerships and complaint mediation.
Regarding the recent deaths among local youth, Chief Luhnow said, “We protect the integrity of those investigations because it’s vital to move them forward, but we have some of the very best detectives in our major crimes unit. They’re all working as a team…very diligently, around the clock…
“We do a great job of being relentless, and we will continue to do so.”
Chief Luhnow discussed the potential implementation of police body cameras, which would involve an extensive community outreach and feedback period. She said of the cameras, “The city has to be ready for it.”
Mayor Pro Tempore Oscar Gutierrez said a conversation regarding body cameras is something he is open to.
“There’s quite a few residents that actually want video surveillance in their neighborhoods because of crime and traffic situations,” he said. “I just want to say that if my colleagues, city staff and the police department want to have that conversation, I’m open to that.”
Council members sang praises of Chief Luhnow, who will be retiring in February after 32 years in law enforcement.
“It has been such a pleasure to see that level of humanity in a person running a department that is a law enforcement department,” Council member Mike Jordan said of Chief Luhnow.
Council member Alejandra Gutierrez added, “It takes a really good leader to look at the strengths of your followers and teams and know exactly where to put them.”
In other business, the council unanimously adopted an Interim Urgency Ordinance prohibiting the conversion of senior mobile home parks and excessive vacancy rent increases for 10 months and 15 days. This extends the original expiration date of the prohibition from Jan. 29, 2021 to Dec. 14, 2021, allowing staff time to research and draft code amendments, along with conducting civic engagement with affected park owners.
The appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of the Coastal Development Permit for the bicycle share stations was postponed to a later date.