Murder Suspect Picked Up in Watsonville
Tuesday morning around 11AM, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Deputies picked up and arrested a man suspected of attempted murder in a drive-by shooting that took place in Live Oak in January. Deputies arrested the 19 year old man at a home on the 900 block of Freedom Boulevard in Watsonville. He is a suspect in a January shooting where a man was shot at a crosswalk on the 2500 block of Soquel Drive in Live Oak. He is being held at the Santa Cruz County Jail on a $375,000 bond for charges of murder and promoting a criminal street gang,
Carjacking and Kidnapping Off West Cliff Drive Leads to High Speed Chase
Wednesday morning around 4:30AM, SCPD responded to the area of West Cliff Drive and Swift Streets after getting numerous calls about a woman screaming in that area. After arriving, they began pursuit of a driver suspected to be involved in some kind of domestic violence incident, leaving a female victim at the scene. SCPD chased this guy all over Santa Cruz, with speeds exceeding 100mph at times. The driver eventually got on Highway 17 going north and was eventually stopped by Santa Cruz CHP. The victim was taken to Dominican for her injuries. The suspect, a PAROLEE from San Jose, was charged with carjacking, kidnapping, and domestic violence.
He Really Didn’t Mean to Kill Anyone
Friday afternoon around 1:30PM, Watsonville Police responded to the 1400 block of Freedom Blvd. where they arrested a 19 year old male and charged him with involuntary manslaughter and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The arrest is connected to a recent shooting on S. Green Valley Road that left one person dead. The suspect is a known gang member. Investigators believe the 30 year old victim of the shooting was driving a vehicle on Jan. 7th and the suspect was drunk in the backseat of the car playing with a gun when he accidentally fired it, shooting the driver. He left the area and the victim died from a gunshot wound to his upper torso at the scene. Later that night, police said the suspect returned to the scene after hiding in a mobile home park nearby. He was arrested for being drunk in public and later identified as the suspect. He was booked into the Santa Cruz County Jail on involuntary manslaughter with gun enhancement and being a prohibited person with a gun charges. Last check he’s still in county jail on a $100K bond.
They Go In and Out and In and Out
Last week, Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Deputies were responding to a report of a theft from a vehicle in Davenport when they spotted a matching suspects vehicle driving back towards Santa Cruz on Highway 1. Deputies stopped the car in the city of Santa Cruz and after making contact with two men and a woman in the vehicle, one of the men and the woman gave false names (because they had outstanding arrest warrants), and the third guy was on parole. Three of a kind here. After searching their car, police found numerous ID cards, checks, and other personal identifying information that did not belong to any of the occupants. They also found a large quantity of methamphetamine, baggies, and other drug paraphernalia. All three individuals were booked into jail for a variety of charges. As of Thursday afternoon, none of them are still in jail. Is anyone surprised?
Three Shootings in Two Days in Watsonville
Watsonville police detectives are investigating three separate shootings that happened over the course of two days. The shootings left two people injured, including one person who suffered life-threatening injuries. Just after midnight on Saturday, Watsonville Police responded to the area of W. Front and Walker streets where they found a 46 year old man near a campsite with at least two gunshot wounds. Later that same evening, another shooting happened on the 300 block of Madison Street. No injuries were reported in that incident, but bullet holes were located in a home and nearby vehicles. The third shooting happened Monday morning around 2AM on Tharp Avenue. According to Watsonville Police, a 30 year old man was inside a car when he was shot multiple times.
Time to Move the Jail Out of Downtown Santa Cruz
Just because Santa Cruz is the county seat, it doesn’t mean we have to be the county’s asshole. This past week, the local Senile published an editorial that basically called on the county to begin planning construction of a new jail, to be located outside the city limits. I’ve been saying this for YEARS!
Here’s the Sentinel’s editorial (credit to their editorial board)
The Santa Cruz County jail remains an issue both for local law enforcement and the county that will have to be dealt with. Most immediately, for jail staff, coping with COVID-19 has been a major challenge. While the local jail, located off Water Street in downtown Santa Cruz, is one of the few jail systems in the state without a significant COVID-19 outbreak, there have been some problems. Several jail staffers were infected after attending a social gathering and then showed up to work, but, fortunately, the infections did not spread. The jail, as a recent tour by the Editorial Board evidenced, has put in place extensive procedures to protect inmates and staff, including dedicated quarantine and isolation units for inmates and regular testing. Sheriff’s Office corrections staff, also required to wear masks on duty and undergo testing, have been moved up in the priority list for vaccines.
The jail has a maximum capacity of 319 inmates, but last week, officers said the population was 230, with the loss of inmate housing due to quarantine requirements, although it had been severely overcrowded for years before the pandemic. Exercise areas are limited, with quarantined inmates getting an hour a day outside their cells. Most visitation has been suspended and many court arraignments are held within the small courtroom located at the jail. But the problems with the jail predate the pandemic. Sheriff Jim Hart said the jail, first opened in 1981, is both poorly designed and “in the wrong spot” downtown.
For years, local law enforcement has been concerned the downtown location is a problem, as inmates are released onto the local streets and business districts. The COVID-19 restrictions have meant that, under state decrees, some arrestees held on misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges are simply released to their promise to appear in court. In addition, more serious offenders are staying longer at the jail because of state prison reforms and because the state prison system has not allowed transfers of jail inmates with prison sentences during the pandemic, requiring these inmates to be held in county jails until the state has the ability to safely place them in state prisons.
The jail, which does not have a medical facility, was not designed for long-term stays. The jail has other issues as well. Outmoded technology. Drugs remain a problem, especially when visitations are permitted. Mental health issues abound. Gang members have to be kept separated at all times, and watched closely, to prevent violent attacks. The jail-run sobering center for intoxicated individuals is closed during the pandemic, and corrections staff now have to place these individuals in an isolation unit – depending on the inflow, not always by themselves. It’s not surprising that all these factors can take a toll on morale among corrections officers. The best option would be to build a new main jail near the Rountree minimum security facility in South County, which is a semi-rural area and where corrections operations could be centralized. A separate women’s jail could also be built there (women currently are processed through the main jail, and then may be moved to the adjacent Blaine Street minimum security house). Hart estimates a new jail would cost approximately $200 million for a 500-bed facility. But where would the money come from? The state, facing pandemic-related budget cuts, currently has no money set aside for building new jails. And if it did, funding a new jail would be complicated, starting with the sheriff making an application to the state that had been approved by the county Board of Supervisors. The state could then award funding, based on a number of legislative priorities. The county would have to come up with an estimated 5-10% of the construction costs, and operational funding to manage the new facility and approve a construction plan. In other words, it’s a long process and won’t happen soon. But the jail issues will remain once the pandemic passes. The county and the sheriff should start the planning process for building a new jail, preferably at the Rountree site.
Pandering to Progressives on the Local Homeless Issue
Ryan Coonerty talking about doing something about local homelessness? I guess it’s a start! Talk is cheap though. And easy. Taking the cheap and easy way instead of actually leading by example, pushing difficult solutions, getting shit done. Santa Cruz is all bark and no bite when it comes to fixing our issues with homelessness. And this is the county barking here. Last week, Santa Cruz County supervisors unanimously adopted a “policy goal” that aims to create “a collaborative, countywide approach to ensure no family with children under 18 years old remains unsheltered for more than 90 days by December 2021.” Well that was a mouthful of progressive pandering nonsense. WTF is a “policy goal”? Talk about waffling and a lack of “affirmative action” (pardon the pun). The supervisors are asking various county agencies to work with community partners like Housing Matters, which recently received a $2.5 million grant for reducing family homelessness. County staff is expected to come back to the board by May 25th with a progress report, including any additional resources needed to reach the goal. So 6 months into the year, they’ll get a progress report on how everyone else is doing. Meanwhile, a growing homeless camp sits under their collective office windows every single day. Talk about willful ignorance and a complete lack of urgency. Talk is cheap (just like the Board of Supervisors).
The Latest Updates on COVID-19 in Santa Cruz County
There have been 14,359 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Santa Cruz County, according to the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, with 732 currently active cases. 170 people have died, 421 have been hospitalized, 23 are currently hospitalized, and 6 are in the ICU. 13,457 people have recovered from the disease. A total of 113,502 people have tested negative. Santa Cruz County is in the purple tier of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, meaning many non-essential indoor business operations are closed. Its adjusted case rate is at 12.2, and it needs to be at 7 or below to move up. It also has a 3.5% positivity rate, and that needs to be at 8% or below to move up.
The Regal None
This week, it was announced that the Santa Cruz Cinema 9 on Pacific Avenue in downtown, aka the Regal 9, was closing permanently. Employees were notified of the decision in an email. The multiplex movie theater has been a central draw for visitors downtown. It has been closed since October. It first opened downtown in 1995, and was a central business in the revitalization of downtown after the 1989 earthquake. It’s sad to see downtown Santa Cruz slowly dying. That block is going to be mostly vacant, leaving a gaping, mess. walk by the Regal 9 now and the entry way is usually full of bums. Palace Art, another long time Santa Cruz institution, gave up too. They’re gone. Buttercup cup cakes? Long gone. Welcome to downtown. Where local business dies a slow, painful death while the city throws up their hands and looks the other way.
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But did you see the letter by the Aptos Needle Witch proclaiming that we don’t need a jail? Don’t you know that her opinion is the World’s foremost authority on everything?
Yeah but I don’t talk about her. She’s just a gasbag idiot. Not worth any time or space in my head or my column.
But at least there’s a simultaneous letter recommending that Santa Cruz should get a real police chief.
Talk’s cheap, takes money to buy whiskey.
Amen on the need for a new, larger jail located in a more suitable location. The current jail is chronically overcrowded, has very limited space for any rehabilitation efforts. The location is inappropriate, not only because people are released into downtown Santa Cruz, but also from a security standpoint. The prisoners have woefully inadequate opportunities for appropriate exercise. It’s time to get this ball rolling.
Jeff Hill of Jeff Hill & Sons, excavating and grading!?!
Two years ago Tulare County built and opened a new 519 inmate, state-of-the-art jail for $72 million. Santa Cruz County should just copy theirs. Put it on County owned property in south county and just use Tulare’s construction plans and the same construction company. SC doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel at a cost of $200 million.
Yeah, that $200 million figure seemed way too high. But what type of economic reality can you expect from a sheriff who only charges a penny for bail?
The figure is too high because Hart is figuring in the money he needs to open a training facility in south county, bypassing other state police officer training facilities and correctional officer training facilities. That may sound like a fine idea, but the training curricula would not match what is considered standard now, and a fair amount of oversight would be lost. If you think more law and order is needed in SC county, your hopes would be thoroughly dashed when you realize what kinds of law enforcement officers are produced from such a place, liberal SC county’s own training facility. Measure R was supposed to provide this, but it was defeated when everyone realized what it was really for.
Dang! Copy the plans and hire the same construction team! Who knew a place like Tulare County can be a model for Santa Cruz?
“It’s sad to see downtown Santa Cruz slowly dying.”
It’s been dead to me since 1989. Sorry, but any charm downtown Santa Cruz ever had was gone long ago. It’s just not worth going there, so I don’t. High priced parking and fines, crazy people yelling at each other, getting panhandled constantly and having to step around passed out people, vomit and excrement is not an attraction as far as I’m concerned. So I’ve taken my shopping dollars elsewhere. I refuse to shop in a slum. It’s no surprise to me businesses are failing.
I have been anxiously awaiting comment from you, Ben, about the shennanigans happening first at downtown Trader Joe’s and then also the Trader Joe’s in Capitola. There is video on youtube. What is their goal here? Does everybody just have oppositional/defiant disorder?
For those of us who do not normally watch YouTube, I read about it in print elsewhere. The incident involves an “anti-mask group” of about 14 people, entering the store and insisting on shopping. When not served by the TJ staff, and told to leave, they left cash at the register for various items they had obtained.
Now, I am the suspicious type. Groups come and go, thanks largely to social media think-alikes. But was that really an anti-mask protest, or was it specifically intended to target TJ for some other reason? I am sure that TJ has video cameras. Were any of the protestors identified, and if so, might it be the case that some of them are known activists [of any persuasion] who have a hidden agenda? If none are known, I think it odd that persons who are not normally activists should suddenly pop out of nowhere to do this. Why here?
Thanks for posting your take on the TJ “protest”. I can not figure out what they could possibly think they are accomplishing by acting out in this way.
I hope the “plan” isn’t merely to drive these filthy bums back into the greenbelt, where they’re out of sight & out of mind.
You think they trashy in town, where they’re being watched? They’re worse in the woods… much worse.
re “Time to Move the Jail Out of Downtown Santa Cruz”
Something to consider when proposing a “new jail” is will it be used?
Over the course of 2 days, the Sheriff’s “Special Enforcement Team” (SET) contacted 3 narco traffickers. Each of these traffickers was found to be in possession of large amounts of methamphetamine. Total weight was reported to be 1.5 kilos. 2 were cited and released at the scene, the third went to jail on a “No Bail” felony probation violation (PRCS).
I think before a new jail is considered, Santa Cruz County should consider a new Sheriff.
This post perfectly sums up one of the biggest issues around here.
Absolutely. The root cause of the problem is the sheriff.
It is sad to see businesses close. Would like to see the city do more to help. Buttercup closed before the lock down, taking the business online.
Hopefully the Nick and Del Mar can weather this storm of pandemic and vagrancy. We are rapidly losing our downtown and any reason to go there. It’s telling that REI is going in on Commercial Way and not downtown as originally planned. Time to clean up and clean the vagrants out.