This week, I’m bring you an atmospheric river of news, views, and attitude. We’ve got the Darwin award winner who lives to see another day, the city council talks about public safety, giant tree falls on Felton elementary school, less than ideal, guns in Davenport, bums at CVS, identity thief busted, Red Cross trailer stolen, Santa Cruz woman embezzles local non-profit, new (old) jail opens (re-opens), spinning wheel comes down, the Weekly Seen, the Happy Story of the Week, and more!
Atmospheric River Drenches Santa Cruz
Spring came roaring into town this week, with a fierce round of storms that dumped massive amounts of rain in Santa Cruz and the mountain communities that surround it. The San Lorenzo River rose about 10 feet in 48 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday, as storm runoff made it’s way down the mountains. It was at about 12 feet above normal on Thursday afternoon before it stopped rising. This is still well below “flood stage”, and at least 10 feet below any possibility of cresting the banks of the levee downtown. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on over the course of the next few days. Last year we had a pretty good rise in the river downtown, coming very close to flood stage, with flooding in areas like the Tannery. If history holds true, any rapid rise in the river levels is sure to inundate and make a mess of the city’s new Hobonip camp on River street, which sits directly next to the river (brilliant choice!).
Darwin Award Winner Survives Another Day
Saturday afternoon around 3PM, a 28 year old man from Boulder Creek was walking along Pacific Avenue when he brandished a handgun at a juvenile and threatened to “blow his brains out”, according to eyewitnesses at the scene who immediately called police. Two officers found the man on Maple Street. When the officers approached the suspect, he turned away from the officers and appeared to reach for a gun in the waistband of his pants. The responding officers pulled out their guns and ordered the man to drop the gun. After initially refusing, the suspect eventually followed orders and surrendered. The suspect was booked into county jail on charges of making a criminal threat with intent to terrorize, displaying an imitation firearm in public, and committing a felony crime while released on bail. In any other town, this guy would probably be dead right now, definitely shot. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, it’s just an observation. SCPD showed amazing restraint here. I’m just happy nobody was shot, including anyone from SCPD.
City Council Holds Special Public Safety Study Session Meeting
This past Tuesday night, the Santa Cruz city council held a special “study session” meeting at city hall. I know. More talk. I know. Talk is pretty cheap and meaningless here. In September of last year, the City Council approved a 3rd party operational analysis of the Police Department and review of the Park Ranger Division.
After many years of being told by SCPD that “no call is too small”, now apparently we’re being told by our new, 6 months on the job, chief that he thinks far too many calls are “too small”, as he advocated for 911 emergency response to shift to a more “selective” model. The Center for Public Safety Management study showed that the department dispatches officers to about 1,063 calls per 1,000 residents, compared to a standard of 400 to 1,000 calls on average elsewhere, and that callers have an average 26-minute wait per call when the benchmark is a 15-minute average wait.
“This suggests the need to better manage and screen calls for service, eliminating those calls which are not specific to a police responsibility or a priority to the community,” Chief Andy Mills wrote in a report to the council.
Or here’s a better idea. How about we stop rewarding criminals? How about we actually arrest more people and punish them for breaking the law? How about we actually enforce our existing laws, which get broken daily and cause people to report a crime?
In addition to addressing the obvious ongoing burden on officers, Mills showed that crime levels in Santa Cruz are higher than average. In a graph charting per-capita crime from 2008 to 2015, the city has more than double the state average property crime level and nearly double the violent crime. Mills said he was steering the city away from the obvious choice of hiring more officers. He feels as though it “does not seem fiscally feasible at this time.”
Wait. Isn’t this the same guy who was the city’s show runner for the ill fated and poorly conceived “Camp Coonerty”, and the city’s decision to spend a quarter of a million dollars to babysit a handful of homeless squatters on a city owned dirt parking lot? Obviously, he knows nothing about “fiscal feasibility” (and let’s be real, neither does the city council).
Mills told the city council and the community that staffing and retention of officers has been an ongoing problem for SCPD. Of the nine officers most recently hired, only three remain after police academy or field training. Mills also backed a report recommendation to transfer oversight of the city’s Park Ranger program from the Parks and Recreation department to SCPD.
Giant Oak Tree Falls on San Lorenzo Valley Elementary School
During a big rainstorm last Wednesday, a huge, 85 foot oak tree fell on top of San Lorenzo Valley Elementary School in Felton. Tree limbs smashed through the building’s upper windows, part of a multi-purpose room which was thankfully empty. Several cars were also crushed by the massive tree and it’s limbs. No one was injured.
Less Than Ideal
Around 9PM on Monday night, a report came in about some kind of possible stabbing or disturbance at the foot of the wharf. When SCPD arrived on scene, they found two males in front of the Ideal Cafe who were both suffering from facial injuries and refusing to cooperate. One them claimed to have fallen and tripped and that’s why his face was all messed up. He tripped. In the sand. Nobody was stabbed though. SCPD made them shake hands and walk away. Ok, I’m kidding about the handshake, but nobody was arrested and SCPD kicked them off the beach and made them walk away.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Deputy Confiscates Guns From Davenport Car Camper
This past week, a Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Deputy was patrolling the Davenport Landing beach parking lot, where he found a male in possession of a loaded handgun, which was sitting out in the open in public view on the center console. The man also had an unloaded rifle in the back seat. By the looks of the photo, he might have even gotten a parking ticket too!
Bum Behaves Badly at CVS on Mission
Friday night around 9PM, reports came in about a transient male in a poncho throwing stuff at passing cars and holding a glass bottle in his hand at the CVS on Mission. I wonder if that was a Mexican poncho or a Sears poncho? Inquiring minds want to know! The suspect moved over to the street next to the pottery store, before running out into traffic and nearly being hit by multiple cars. SCPD sent a couple units down there to do what? Haul him to the “sobering center” for the hundredth time? They finally caught up to him in front of Mission Street BBQ. Yum. I love me some Mission Street BBQ. Turns out the guy was on probation out of Berkeley and San Francisco. And here he is, just another bum behaving badly in Santa Cruz. And what does SCPD do with this guy? NOTHING. They did absolutely NOTHING here. He “moved along” (their words) and became the latest problem for any one of the other local businesses nearby on Mission because SCPD did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HERE. Why do we bother calling them anymore if this is the response we can expect? “Neighborhood Policing” FAIL right here folks. I don’t have to wonder how often this happens. I know how often this happens. Far too often.
Identity Thief Busted in Jose Avenue Park
Last Friday night, a Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Deputy was patrolling Jose Avenue Park in east Santa Cruz. They noticed a silver Nissan backed into a parking space at the far end of the parking lot and spoke with a male who was inside the car. The man was found to be in possession of a stolen checkbook that the owner apparently hadn’t even noticed was missing. He also had a drivers license, a social security card, and an ATM card that did not belong to him. He was arrested for multiple identity theft related charges and taken to jail.
Red Cross Trailer Stolen
Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. Sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning, a 16 foot Disaster Response trailer was stolen from the Red Cross facility on Soquel Avenue. It was stocked with cots, blankets and other supplies used in emergencies. The loss is estimated to be at least $15,000. According to Red Cross Spokesperson Jim Burns, the trailer was designed and stocked with emergency supplies which they use to set up an emergency shelter on the Central Coast whenever it’s needed. At the time it was taken the trailer had the American Red Cross lettering and logo with a “No. 6” stenciled on. If you see it, please call SCPD or the Sheriff’s office.
Santa Cruz Woman Arrested For Embezzling Non-Profit
This past Monday, a Santa Cruz woman was arrested for allegedly stealing over $675,000 between 2013 through 2015 from Central Coast Kids & Families, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity that helps children with disabilities and special needs. She was Executive Director and President, according to the Monterey County DA’s Office. She was arrested and booked in the Santa Cruz county jail on charges of embezzlement, money laundering, and tax evasion (and apparently was released on bail the same day).
New (Old) Jail Opens (Re-Opens) in Santa Cruz!
Ok, I’ll admit I mostly used that headline for the shock and awe value it’s sure to elicit from certain members of our community. Nobody dares use the word “jail” here. Supporting more “jails” in Santa Cruz is political suicide. What we have here is a “medium security women’s facility”. Much kinder. Much gentler. Much more Santa Cruz.
After being closed for over a year due to Prop 47 giving people get out of jail free cards, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office is reopening the Blaine Street Women’s facility in Santa Cruz. Blaine Street used to house minimum security inmates, but due to Prop 47, there were not enough women in custody eligible to keep it open. We went from overcrowding to undercrowding. Under Proposition 47, many common felonies were reduced to misdemeanors so people convicted of those crimes are no longer doing jail time. They’re out committing a bunch of crime in our community now instead. As a result of this new change, “minimum security” inmates basically no longer existed. Now with updated security measures, the “facility” (I know Santa Cruz hates the word “jail”) can house up to 32 medium security inmates. Currently at the main jail, there are about 38 women incarcerated, and more than half of them will be eligible to stay at the new facility according to Sheriff Jim Hart. The facility took about $350,000 to renovate, and it’s is expected to open in the next few weeks.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
After almost 60 years in operation, the Ferris Wheel at the Boardwalk is shutting down. It opened in 1959, 52 years after the park made its debut in 1907. A new replacement ride will be selected by the summer 2019, according to Boardwalk officials. They said they will not be removing any other rides from the Boardwalk.
The Weekly Seen
Parking lot of local auto dealer, Soquel Avenue.
The Happy Story of the Week
I know what some of you might be thinking. What a happy story! I know what some of you might be thinking. Why are other cities in the county sending their homeless to the city of Santa Cruz to deal with? Check that cynicism at the door! This is the Happy Story of the Week!
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