A new focus on patrolling Downtown Santa Monica has cut serious crimes by almost half over the past month according to information presented to Council this week.
Chief of Police Ramon Batista said Part 1 and Part 2 crimes (covering serious incidents like rape, murder, theft, auto theft, assault and robbery) have seen significant decreases of almost 50 percent.
“That means that we’ve had nearly zero or reduced assaults, zero or reduced aggravated assaults (one of each) and no robberies and no arson cases,” Batista said. “Now why this is important to us is because for all the weekends that we were looking at previously, we had a combination of these incidents happening sometimes on the same day or the same weekend. So noting that we’ve now cut this in half, and these more serious Part 1 crimes are not occurring, that is important to us, and we’re seeing that as a success and the results of the work that we’re doing.”
According to Batista the efforts include a bike patrol deployed in the area to support officers already stationed there, the neighborhood resource officer for the department has been reassigned to the Promenade and they are working on a transit detail to address safety concerns at bus stops.
In his presentation, Batista took time to directly address false information that has been broadcast by some downtown business owners claiming officers do not work overnight and refute calls made by those same individuals to bring in Sheriff deputies to patrol the area.
“I want to bring attention to the falsehood, the falsehood that our officers are not working at night. It is completely incredulous to fathom that Santa Monica Police officers don’t work at night. Santa Monica Police officers work around the clock,” he said. “Moreover, the idea that another local police department can come in and provide the same level of service, care and compassion to the men and women of the Santa Monica Police Department is something for which I take great exception as our elected officials, as the longtime architects of this professional police department, you should be outright offended as well. Our Santa Monica Police Officers risk their lives every day. They’re human beings and they deserve our support. We don’t need to look very far to recognize that undermining our social contract is inherently dangerous to everyone. This false notion stands to undercut the trust and confidence from our residents. It places everyone and everything that we work for in jeopardy.”
He said SMPD officers were able to apprehend suspects in two recent murders because they were quick to respond to the calls.
Batista said citywide call volume is down by about 5 percent but arrests are up by 30 percent since this time last year.
Councilman Oscar de la Torre asked if those arrests were being followed through to prosecution.
“Case filings are about double what they were even a few months ago,” said City Attorney Douglas Sloan. “Our prosecutors are maxed out.”
De la Torre said he thinks it is important for residents to be aware of what is being done to address these issues and said he feels comforted by the actions Batista presented.
“Since I was elected, this is the first time I have felt assured that we’re being a lot more aggressive in our approach,” he said. “That aggressiveness is not to violate anybody’s rights, but to try to prevent serious crimes from happening.”
In addition to increased presence downtown and at the Promenade, Batista has hired 18 new officers since taking over leadership of SMDP ten months ago – more than were hired in the last two years combined. This marks a change of direction for the department, which has been unable to staff its budgeted positions. He said some of those officers can hit the streets quickly if they are hires from other departments but many new hires require 18 months of training.
“It’s obviously going to take some time to see in the streets, and I would say that we are addressing this quickly and we’re responding to the community but we’re going to continue seeing the results of hiring all these officers, I would imagine, soon,” said council member Lana Negrete.