The Continued Safety Of Montecito

Montecito is a safe place to live. Violent crime is almost non-existent. In the last few months, however, burglaries in and around Montecito have increased dramatically. Virtually every week, a house is burglarized, a construction site vandalized. Despite this, law enforcement officials – in our case the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, Carpinteria Division – feel there is no immediate cause for alarm and consequently have done little to nothing to stem this incipient crime wave.

Recently, a team of burglars managed to remove a safe from a house near Channel Drive and walked away with an estimated $600,000 in jewelry and memorabilia. This crime went unnoticed by other Montecito residents, as do most of these home and construction site break-ins (See News Feature on page 33).

At Cold Springs trailhead, vehicles are regularly broken into and valuables stolen, usually by the crude but effective method of breaking the window with a rock. We wonder why Sheriff’s deputies haven’t been more vigilant or done more to capture the miscreants responsible.

When a private citizen (and friend of the Journal) asked why they haven’t put up a hidden camera or assigned someone to try to apprehend the criminal/s, a Sheriff’s deputy replied there wasn’t enough funding for that. I’m no expert, but motion-sensing cameras can be had for around $400. If our Sheriff’s Department can’t afford it, Montecito residents should raise the funds and set it up themselves.

The Sheriff’s Department may not believe the effort to be worth it, but we do. Anyone willing to smash a rock through a car window in the light of day has very likely broken other, more serious, laws. New York City officials felt at one time that directing scarce resources towards ‘victimless’ crimes was a waste of money and manpower. In 1994, Rudolph Giuliani was elected mayor and began a campaign to clean up the city. Unlike other politicians, who over the years refused to prosecute petty crimes, Giuliani – a former prosecutor – began ticketing people for petty crimes, arresting subway tollbooth jumper, squeegee window wipers, and others. New York City police found themselves catching people with outstanding warrants out for more serious crimes, up to and including murder. Almost immediately, New York City experienced a dramatic drop in crimes of all nature.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to us that criminals caught for robbing houses in Montecito – or even scrawling their ugly graffiti – would have warrants pending for crimes of a more serious nature too.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff personnel really are busy, and Montecito is generally safe, so perhaps an informal neighborhood watch is what is needed. If you are a hiker, for example, and park at Cold Springs trailhead on Mountain Drive, be vigilant; if you notice a vehicle or person that seems out of place (like somebody “jogging” in street clothes), write down a license plate, get a description. If you are driving home at night and see a truck or SUV parked at a construction site and it seems suspicious, make a note, jot down the license plate and make of vehicle.

Contractors Beware

Recently, suspect(s) used a gas torch to cut open locked equipment boxes on a Montecito construction site and removed equipment worth more than $15,000. Such work sites are prime targets and are rarely protected at night. Contractors should install hidden security cameras at high-end job sites or hire 24-hour security. These burglaries are likely to be committed by repeat offenders, so catching one may prevent ten in the future.

Vote “Yes” on Measure F2006 (Proposition 4 Override)

According to ballots recently mailed to Montecito Fire District residents, a “Yes” vote on Measure F2006 “will allow the Montecito Fire Department to spend tax revenues that are already being collected and use them in Montecito to maintain our existing excellent standard of vital services.”

My father, heading for semi-retirement, is for this. He says, “Montecito Fire District is one of the best prepared and equipped fire districts in the nation,” and feels that “since there is nothing broken, what is there to fix?” He strongly urges a “Yes” vote.

I, on the other hand, have doubts.

The accompanying material suggests, “if this measure fails, the District’s spending limits will be reduced. Such reduction may result in lower tax rates in the future and will reduce the funds available…” Maybe I am just young and idealistic, but it seems to me that by restricting the Fire District’s growth, Montecito has a chance to stop the bureaucratic expansion that will inevitably drop a heavy financial weight on its residents. But… as much as I savor the prospect of lower taxes, firemen are always first at the scene of an accident, and I want it to continue that way.

I voted “Yes” too, but reserve the right to reconsider in four years, when the next vote is due.