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Sentinel Attacks the CPRB

Increase police patrols on Pacific Avenue


December 8, 2002

The new City Council needs to step up enforcement to combat
aggressive behavior and promote local business

Sometimes, simple solutions are best.
Recent months have seen the Santa Cruz City Council engaged in a
flurry of activity on what to do about social problems along Pacific
The council conducted meetings and later proposed and adopted a
complex series of new rules. Perhaps those discussions were valuable,
but now it’s time to move in a different direction.
A new council has been seated, one that has vowed to do more for
the local business community and to increase local revenues by
helping out businesses.
Here’s what the new council could do: increase police presence in a
downtown sorely in need of better law enforcement.
We want to be clear on what we’re saying. The problem downtown is
not with the homeless and the dispossessed. Rather, the problem is
aggressive and abusive behavior, together with a serious drug and
alcohol use and abuse. Late nights on Pacific Avenue are rough
indeed, and we wonder if members of the council are even aware of
Most Santa Cruzans would be shocked if they knew how much drug
use takes place around the downtown area. On top of that, there are
a lot of drunken people downtown at night, with the kind of obnoxious
behavior that goes along with intoxication.
Just look at the young man who admitted to snipping electrical wires
that were lighting trees downtown. According to the police, the man
said that his actions were fueled by drunkenness, that he “wanted to
do something stupid.” The problem is that this particular state of mind
is quite common on way too many nights downtown.
The best way to deal with that atmosphere is no surprise law
enforcement. The problem is that the City Council is made up of
well-meaning liberal people who somehow think that just reasoning
with people ought to be enough. The reality is different: bad behavior
calls for good law enforcement.
Over the years, city councils have encouraged alternatives to law
enforcement. It has created a downtown host program, which is OK
as far as it goes, but it doesn’t replace cops on patrol. Also, the
council has sought to satisfy its left-leaning sensibilities by instituting
a Police Review Board, a commission with little to do in a town that
really doesn’t need one.
In a small, liberal town like Santa Cruz, there are plenty of checks
and balances on the Police Department without a Police Review
Board. It doesn’t exist out of any need; rather, it’s here because it’s
politically feasible.
Its creation is but one indication that local police have that the City
Council and its supporters do not support the police. The council
could immediately have a dramatic effect on police morale by doing
away with the Police Review Board.
In addition, the financial savings from putting an end to the
commission could pay for increased patrols downtown. We realize that
many council members might shy away from encouraging increased
patrols, but that’s exactly what needs to happen downtown.
Increasingly, Santa Cruz’s downtown is being defined by abusive and
obnoxious behavior. Many people around the county feel much more
comfortable shopping elsewhere. And that’s a shame, because the
Santa Cruz downtown offers a lot.
Downtown business people have put up with a lot over the years.
Many of them lost their businesses in the 1989 earthquake, and put
them back together in the intervening years. They’ve committed to
downtown Santa Cruz, and it’s time that their loyalty is repaid by the
City Council.
The solution to problems downtown may be hard to define, but it
certainly would help to have a greater police presence. We’re
confident that the excellent leadership at the Police Department
under Chief Steve Belcher would prevent any overzealous
Right now, increased patrols and better enforcement is what’s
needed. And that will only happen with the support of the City
Council. We call on the council to address this issue immediately.


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