Milpas on the Move by Sharon Byrne as featured in the Santa Barbara Sentinel
It’s been a jam-packed week – I did the Common Ground Homeless count, which means getting up at 4:00 AM, heading out along the beach near Garden St, and waking people up to ask them a slew of questions. I got to lead a team of excellent quick-studies. We found a lot of people, as would be expected in this area. This is my third count – I did one in Santa Monica in 2011, to learn from them, and then the Common Ground count here last time.
Why do it? Well, you learn a lot, and you’re part of gathering data on the scope and extent of the problem. Without it, we’re reduced to emotional arguments and anecdotes. It’s impossible to measure progress without establishing a baseline. My hope is that we focus on achieving measurable results, and realistically assess how we’re doing.
Coffee with a cop – Milpas McDonald’s.
This was started by Kasi Beutel, and has been well received, apparently. Community policing is a great concept – a well-connected officer knows the problem spots, and who they can go to for reliable intel on goings-on.
Milpas has two of the best beat cops you can ask for: Officers Gutierrez and Wojciechowski. We know them as Adrian and Wojo. Both live on the Eastside. Adrian is at every community meeting, and organizes neighborhood watches. He runs a citizens academy course, and just graduated a huge Spanish-speaking class. He could write the book on community policing.
Like Adrian, Wojo is a community-based cop, and both have been deeply involved in PAL, or Police Activities League, which provides free sports training, team jerseys, and tournaments after-school. My daughter was in PAL basketball for the Santa Barbara Junior High team. She’s not the least bit athletic, but worked hard. We all cried and cheered her team when they fought back from dead last in the early rounds of the citywide finals to claim a second-place trophy.
Cost to us: zero.
Once we learned these two officers would tag-team the Eastside beat early last year, we threw them a “Welcome Beat Officers” party at Casa De La Raza. Many neighbors came, brought a ton of food, and welcomed them to the beat.
They’ve been at all our community events, and engaged with concerned citizens on a wide array of topics.
A group of concerned neighbors walked Officers Buetel and Reyes through West Downtown last year, and they were responsive, helpful, and incredibly observant. It means something to me to run into these officers, get a warm greeting, catch up on how each other’s kids are doing, and talk to them about what’s going on in the area. They know the neighborhood issues. They work on them. They keep you in the loop.
And you know them. You feel a connection there.
I am a convert to the church of community policing, without a doubt.
Thus the Coffee With a Cop on Milpas was a delight. They all came: Kasi, John Reyes, Adrian, Wojo, Torres, Beecher, and our new campus officer Marshall (Love her. LOVE. As a SBHS parent, I am thrilled she’s there. Even just an occasional monitoring of Rodger Dodger’s Edhat Scanner report reveals she’s earning her keep, and then some.)
Cam was there. Browning Allen from Public Works was present. Councilmen Rowse and Hotchkiss came by and chatted with the neighbors.
And so did the neighbors. I arrived early, and was greeted by a grinning Dave Peterson, owner of McDonald’s, son of the famous Herb Peterson, creator of the Egg McMuffin – right here in Santa Barbara! Dave is also father of the famous Lakey Peterson, one of the top surfers in the world.
John Dixon of Tri County Produce arrived, with a dozen donuts for the cops! We all got a good laugh out of that one.
It was a great event, and we extend a hearty thanks to SBPD for coming to the neighborhood, and strengthening their ongoing relationship with this community.
The police are doing a sting this week on Milpas at the new pedestrian signals at Yanonali and Ortega. If you’ve been driving Milpas lately, you‘ve probably seen the signals in action – bright, rapidly flashing yellow lights. I’ve seen people crossing without using them (dangerous!!!), and cars sometimes going through the intersection even when they’re flashing. Hopefully the sting will help educate everyone about the appropriate behavior at these intersections.