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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 16th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 45 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 45

Santa Maria takes action against crime

BY KRISTINA SEWELL

The Santa Maria Police Department is moving full-force ahead to meet the needs of the community with a new action plan, a press release from the city manager’s office reported Jan. 8.

The city was host to a handful of community meetings where residents could voice some of their major concerns about city issues. According to the press release, the first of these meetings was held in October of last year; 150 participants showed up to provide feedback regarding city improvement efforts.

After the meeting, an additional focus group was held to develop an action plan that would target four identified areas in the Northwest Santa Maria neighborhoods. Crime reduction, infrastructure improvements, community outreach, and code compliance are areas in need of development and maintenance.

“We are pleased to develop this cooperative community effort,” Mayor Alice Patino said in the press release. “I saw and heard that the residents and city departments share the same goals. We need to talk and work together to improve our quality of life; that’s what the action plan is all about.”

Patino organized and attended last October’s town hall meeting; she also lives in the northwest part of Santa Maria.

The plan, which is available on the city’s website, ci.santa-maria.ca.us, details how the city will help the community address major issues. To target crime reduction, the City Council has authorized the hiring of more police officers through Measure U funding. Another aspect of crime reduction is making beat officers more available to the community. Beat coordinator cell phone numbers have been made public and were posted to the city’s website.

Police Chief Ralph Martin said beat officers are receiving calls about quality of life issues, as well as crime. According to Martin, officers responded to 144 service calls in a three-day period last month.

“This is an indication that community-based policing is working,” Martin said. “This is an opportunity to get something done.”

He said the growing prostitution issue is paramount to the city right now; sting operations against “johns” and prostitutes have already been enacted. The plan states that this issue is being addressed through a specialized patrol and investigations operation, the impacts of which will be evident in the coming weeks.

In addition, the plan will address traffic issues and help facilitate collaboration between community and law enforcement on the northwest side of town. One aspect of the plan intends to address youth in that area by expanding after-school programs and adding a new playground at Oakley Elementary School.

“We also want to increase school officers from two to four and hire a full time DARE officer,” Martin said. The action plan states that Measure U funding will help provide these additional school resources.

Adding more streetlights and cleaning up dirty alleys that attract crime will address community safety and infrastructure issues. Most importantly, the city aims to establish community forums in the northwest area to attract help from local churches and nonprofits to aid in cleanup and community outreach efforts.

Martin said that as the department gets healthier, he plans to hire more officers within the next few weeks or months. He also added that the northeast side of town will be addressed next, but he emphasized that the city seeks to improve all areas.

“The police department will not accomplish things on their own,” Martin said. “It will be a collaborative community effort.”

He said as the city focuses on the small things, the bigger things will start to take care of themselves.

“We’re moving forward, and the department is behind the efforts of what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “We’re hoping for a good year in 2013.”