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Indybay Feature
First Alarm Security Guards Profile and Stalk San Lorenzo Park Users
by Alex Darocy (alex [at]
Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
As a group of approximately one dozen Santa Cruz community members sat in the shade of a tree overlooking the San Lorenzo Park benchlands on the warm afternoon of June 19, a security guard from First Alarm stood nearby them watching every move they made. One of the community members subjected to the close and extended scrutiny said he was cited for being in possession of an open container that was not his, and he thought the initial contact with authorities was due to their perception he was still on probation, and that he would be violating his terms of release if caught doing something wrong. [Top photo: A security guard watches San Lorenzo Park users from approximately 30 feet away, using the pedestrian bridge as cover. Scroll down for more photos.]
The individual cited said he was not on probation and he was unknowingly sitting near the beer bottle when a security guard with First Alarm spotted it during one of several on-foot sweeps made directly through the group of park users that day. Those in the group said the bottle was nestled inside of a drink holder that masked its markings from plain view, and they thought it was left behind by someone not present at the time of the security guard's arrival. They said the First Alarm guard then called the Santa Cruz Police Department who arrived quickly and cited the individual, telling him that his proximity to the bottle indicated his 'possession' of it. After the police officer left, the First Alarm guard continued to watch the group carefully for an extended period of time, even though the area surrounding them appeared clean and devoid of anything resembling an alcohol container.

Those targeted by security in San Lorenzo Park that day said their free use of the area has been inhibited due to this type of profiling by First Alarm, where guards informally 'identify' individuals they perceive to be on probation, or more generally, individuals they perceive to be undesirable for a variety of other reasons.

They say that guards have developed a routine of walking directly through groups of park users identified as problematic. This is done multiple times during the day, and during the process their possessions are visually inspected at close range. First Alarm guards also stand and watch park users for long periods of time from nearby locations.

In addition to staring and sometimes glaring at them, individuals say the guard who was watching them that day has also previously attempted to intimidate their group by waving his metal baton/billy club at them, and by putting on his gloves in an exaggerated manner for no apparent reason.

When asked if another group of park users who were sitting in the benchlands area was also being closely watched by the security guards, they said yes, but the walk-throughs weren't as frequent.

At the same time the individual was being cited for the open container, across the banks of the San Lorenzo River along the levee trail, another First Alarm security guard (see photo) sat in a patrol vehicle watching a small group of people who were sitting under the shade of a tree on the retaining wall that lines River Street. As the guard sat watching this group, his patrol vehicle blocked a segment of the San Lorenzo Riverway trail, and bicyclists had to slow down and take care to maneuver around it safely.

Shortly before that, Santa Cruz Police Department Officer Hoppe (see photo) patrolling the San Lorenzo Riverway on a bicycle, told an African American man that the the area where he was sitting was, "not a sitting path." Officer Hoppe then told the individual to move off the paved portion of the trailway if he wanted to sit down. The man had been protruding approximately one or two feet onto the path when the officer encountered him, and as soon as Hoppe left, the man resumed sitting on the path.

There is no signage along the San Lorenzo Riverway trail that indicates sitting is not allowed on or near the path. On the contrary, a welcome sign that is posted at one of the entrances to the trail system states, "Prevent Erosion by Staying on the Path," though the sign is hard to read due to its physical condition.

Trail users may also remember the "Area Temporarily Closed" signs that lined the San Lorenzo Riverway for the better part of the last year that made it a citable offense to veer off of the trail past a certain point. Those signs were installed in July of 2012 every 50 feet or so along several miles of the river levee, making the shoreline and banks of the entire downtown length of the San Lorenzo River inaccessible for any reason until recently.

Most of the signs have been removed, and the only remaining "Area Temporarily Closed" signs are presently located along the levee trail near the rear of businesses located on Front Street.

Signs that say "Alcohol Prohibited" and "No Camping" are posted at several of the trail entrances and on some utility structures.

The practice of security guards positioning themselves close to groups of individuals to monitor park users' behavior closely and for extended periods of time has been in effect since as early as 2011.

More recently, San Lorenzo Park users have reported an increase in harassment by security guards, park rangers, and SCPD officers since the summer of 2012 when a period of intensive homeless sweeps were initiated by the SCPD and the City of Santa Cruz's Department of Parks and Recreation. The installation of "Area Temporarily Closed" signs every 50 feet along the river levee coincided with these sweeps.

Now that the signs are gone, park users have made a very visible return to their normal enjoyment of the banks of the river.

Note to readers:

I received the following email from an associate of mine who lives near the San Lorenzo River and walks the levee regularly, shortly after publishing the article, "City Installs 'Do Not Enter' Signs Around Entire Downtown Segment of San Lorenzo River" to Indybay in 2012 (see:

The email read:

"On August 9th [of 2012], shortly after the vegetation clearing began and apparently shortly before the signs went up, I was threatened quite aggressively by a First Alarm agent while cautiously approaching a great blue heron below the levee. I appreciate his personal respect for wildlife, but if he thought that I was going to frighten the bird by crouching quietly, I wonder what effect he imagined that shouting commands at us would have... As I gaped up at him for a few moments, dumbstruck and disappointed (never having before been threatened for something so benign as birdwatching), he rapidly increased his hostility, shouting that he would momentarily call the SCPD, citing a municipal trespassing code. This was all in the course of about 10 seconds, and felt very unfriendly and unpleasant.

"When I approached to question him, he was fairly quick to revert to friendly conversation. Maybe because of my lack of hostility, maybe because my appearance is edge case drifter/yuppie. I asked about the willow clearing, and he assured me that the removal of such habitat has had a positive impact on the birds, by flushing out "the transients and their bongos." He claimed that the official purpose of this clearing was for irrigation reasons (??), but proudly revealed that the the true purpose was in fact to remove these undesirables. He then showed me his log-sheet, an intimidating grid of what must have been at least four or five dozen law citations, each with a tally box. He said he'd turn this in to the PD at the end of his shift. There were about a dozen tallies for the trespassing code, several for alcohol, and a few others scattered about the other codes. Several cyclists dismounted to navigate around the First Alarm truck, which he'd parked on the narrow underpass ramp. An older man walking his dog stopped to also express his dismay at the vegetation removal. I said goodbye and departed on the pavement. The heron was long gone."

Alex Darocy
§San Lorenzo Park Users Watched by Security
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
§First Alarm Security Guard Watches San Lorenzo Park Users
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
§First Alarm Guard
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
San Lorenzo Park users say this guard glares at them and attempted to intimidate their group by waving his metal baton/billy club at them, and by putting on his gloves in an exaggerated manner for no apparent reason.
§Park User Cited for Open Container
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
The individual in the black shirt says that he was sitting at this distance from the yellow drink container when he was unfairly cited for possession of an open container. He said that none of the belongings were his.
§First Alarm
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
After noticing he was being photographed, the First Alarm guard attempted to watch the group of park users from a more 'discrete' location, but still kept turning away when the camera was pointed in his direction.
§First Alarm
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
First Alarm guard continues to attempt to evade the camera as he meets with other guards.
§San Lorenzo Park Benchlands
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
This group was also the subject of close attention from First Alarm.
§A bicyclist squeezes by First Alarm
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
A bicyclist squeezes by as a First Alarm guard watches a group of San Lorenzo Riverway users.
§SCPD Officer Hoppe tells man, "This is not a sitting path"
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
§San Lorenzo Riverway
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
The welcome sign that is posted at one of the entrances to the trail system states, "Prevent Erosion by Staying on the Path."
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
§Businesses along Front Street
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
"Area Temporarily Closed" sign.
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
§Enjoying the San Lorenzo River now that it is open again
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 2:59 PM
by Alex Darocy Monday Jun 24th, 2013 5:54 PM
I originally identified SCPD Officer Hoppe as a First Alarm Security Guard in the article. This has been corrected.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Robert Norse
Monday Jun 24th, 2013 3:11 PM
As usual, another informative look at an area other "alternative" publications studiously ignore or pass on police hand-outs on. Thanks, Alex.
by G
Monday Jun 24th, 2013 3:29 PM
Imagine if enforcement money was spent for regular rounds at, oh, let's say... the Planning Commission! With #MoreForensicAccountingPlease. Or... the Water Commission! How many millions of dollars might be saved? Or... Child Protective Services! Save children from the bureaucratic kidnappers. Or... Council Chambers. What crimes might be revealed? Or... the fusion center! Watch those watchers.

We may never know...
by Observer
Monday Jun 24th, 2013 4:03 PM
Ah the 'not mine' defense. So the author/citee would have us believe that someone had a beer in a coozy then got up and walked away from it. Subsequently this group unknowingly sat down near said beer bottle, apparently having no idea it was there. The FA guard was able to see the bottle that the entire group somehow missed, in spite of their close proximity, and that they apparently walked up to it.
I got tagged for open container in a car once. I tried the 'not mine' defense as well. Can't blame the guy for trying, but it's hardly a compelling story.
by Baz Luremann
Monday Jun 24th, 2013 5:43 PM
Umm, that looks like an SCPD officer with a star on his chest and emblem on his shoulder. He probably doesn't want the sitter getting run over by a bike.
by segurid
Wednesday Jun 26th, 2013 1:26 PM
thats why some have no sympathy for those security guards who want better wages and conditions like they reported on kpfa. we are supposed to support striking ''workers'' but not supposed to point out that ''security guards'' are notorious profilers. let that guard try to hurt someone, his causes should not be on kpfa news.
by John E. Colby
Thursday Jul 4th, 2013 3:33 PM
Expect to see in the news media some shocking revelations about Take Back Santa Cruz and their ties to the City of Santa Cruz. Essentially shadowy community groups, aided and abetted by local politicians, the SCPD and 1st Alarm are trying to take our city from us, starting with those they see as undesirable. I would call this thuggery which borders on neo-fascism.

This is a non-violent takeover of the political process, shutting out more compassionate minded citizens interested in a polite discourse. This is how totalitarianism creeps into power.

But federal intervention promises to upset the plans of these (political) thugs who have been personally profiting from their thuggery. Hopefully they will see the insides of a jail, which is where they belong. At the least the power structure of our small town will be broken and refashioned more democratically.
by Linda Lemaster
Friday Jul 12th, 2013 2:47 PM
Thanks Alex for this important expression and the photos. There's one pic that shows the particular security guard kinda looking "up" to your camera. That's the same person I had to deal with, about the same dates, as best I recall.

I had been walking for miles by time I got to San Lorenzo Park that hot afternoon. Am disabled, so was already deeply into what -- for me -- is risky behavior. Hoping to drop my bones and check out the blister factor, then rest a bit too, before continuing on toward next appointment, downtown.

I have chemical allergies/environmental sensitivities, so it
profoundly matters what gets into my lungs or onto my skin.
And SL Park is one of the few "no car exhaust" places
available near downtown for sensitive folks to recover and
hopefully recharge our "batteries." I was not expecting a
taunting, provocative "welcome" from a cop-dressed security

Too bad for me! I was determined to duck into the shade under the footbridge, to cool down. This guy comes upon me like he's going to grab one of my 2 bags! But he just
looked into it. Then stared at me, leaning toward me. It was
a stand-off, except he was on feet and I was down in the

Time passed tensely (I felt the last thing I needed was added, gratuitous, stress)

Finally, I said, "What?" Then the still-nameless creep resumed a more upright stance. Gave me a dirty look, then walked away. If he hadn't been in the uniform I would have called the police, maybe should have anyway?

So it took a bit longer to relax and recover my momentum.
But I want to know who's paying for their bullying, and just
what are the objectives involved? If the guy was working for
SCPD thru some maneuver, I'd want to be informed. Because that's MY park, and I don't remember authorizing
anyone to make sure regular folks who'd usually be in the
park get intimidated by a mercenary thug? That is
everyone's park; we should ALL be free to know and enjoy
it. If there's some actual "criminal" concern to be dealt with, or some unshaded but real problem to solve, this ibully squad is not an acceptable solution.

OCCUPY our Parks!
by Alexander Richter
(alexb.sepp [at] Friday Jul 12th, 2013 5:57 PM
I personally have run into and conflicted with the 'Authority' of these "Mercenary thugs" (as Linda put it well) on three occasions. It wouldn't be much of a bother if this was an occasional run in with some rent a cop at the majority of privately owned spaces, such as a mall or night club, but the reality is much more worrying. The supposedly 'democratic' governed state of Santa Cruz seems to be allowing its monopoly on authority to be "outsourced" to these Mercenaries. The 'First Alarm' private cops have no democratic legitimacy, the opinion of the public which they are hired to intimidate and oppress is outside the contract between them and their employer. Who is hiring these people, who is paying these thugs' paychecks? That is really a question we need to get some clarity on.

Either way - whether this epidemic is concretely paid for by the City and directed in coordination by Santa Cruz's corrupt police chiefs, or whether this frightening challenge to the existing liberal democratic Order is paid for directly by Santa Cruz's Owners (my hunch) - John articulates the current political developments and happenings we are all witness of, social cleansing and intimidation of down to earth people, very precisely as 'neo-fascism'. You can see the "First Alarm" trucks everywhere. Our supposedly 'democratic' government is giving away its Authority to private Autocrats, not just on a local level but also on a national level, as the Snowden revelations and wikileaks releases have shown.

What it comes down to is whether the working and humble People of our country and City will get together, organize and resist the ever increasing economic, social, psychological, emotional oppression continually inflicted on them, us. Personally, my run in with these Mercenary Thugs was very intimidating indeed; however, don't let them get to you! They are Fascists: they serve the opulent and privileged minority to oppress the weakest of our society. Slavery has no space in modern human society. But it is up to the majority of people, who are compassionate human beings, to unite and organize to make sure OUR solidarity and organization is stronger than THEIR money and thugs. In what way or form will have to be discussed further. If you are interested in changing things, and perhaps talk about building a political party movement capable of winning a few seats in the city council, drop me an email.


I suggest creating a petition to "Take Forward Santa Cruz" in contrast to "Take Back Santa Cruz".
Give people a roof over their head and they won't be bums sitting on your porch for dishonest people to create Hate against - FACT: There are 22 empty homes for every homeless person.
Make sure everyone has a good job, and a future to look forward to, and you will have decimated the bloody mess which is petty criminality so rampant in this time of capitalist economic crisis.
by (p)
Friday Jul 12th, 2013 11:52 PM
i got harassed off the park-side court steps on 12-15-2011 by one these cop wannabes and 2 other who knows what. it was around noon, so the curfew signs did not apply. i had no witnesses though, and who knows what lies they would have made up for court. one should pick your battles, so i left.
on the other hand, at peace camp 2010 some of them were very polite.
when the City hires them to protect public property, they become state actors, and the City is subject to lawsuits for their behavior, just like regular cops.

so file complaints with the City Clerk about any abuses they commit.

it is in the City's interest to get rid of any abusive rent-a-pig right away. unlike a government employed cop who is almost impossible to get rid of. the late Butch Baker molested 9 women yet still kept his job.

also the rent-a-pigs are much cheaper per hour and they don't get 90% pensions after 30 years like the cops do. so expect the City to expand their numbers while shrinking the regular cops' numbers. after all over 40% of SC's finest spend their time on homeless 'crime' like panhandling in the wrong spot or sitting down without a permit.

shite, we could deputize girl-scouts to deal with that kind of crime for the price of a few cookies.

by Linda Lemaster
Sunday Jul 28th, 2013 12:23 AM
When I first came to Santa Cruz County, the City of Santa Cruz still had Chuck Abbot's afterglow woven into the architecture and the human infrastructure downtown. The main street was Pacific Garden Mall, and everyone in town and in print talked about our "garden city."

Its very different now.

I really like that Girl Scout idea, tho' likely they'd have to be over age 18 for City officialdom to be making any formal suggestions? Maybe a DIY approach would save tons of time and money?

Do we have the capacity, collectively, to put together anything of great value, or cultural joy, that's not gonna just tumble into free-for-all? I'm partial toward the "pack your trash" folks, but there's times we can't all manage that at once, for example.

I'm thinking more of San Lorenzo Park than the City streets, and of doing something there and inviting the whole town to come on down, to join the play.

But we WOULD have to pay the girl shouts better! At least offer them some of those branded local premium-ingredients cookies (bakeries here - wait til the tourists discover the art of local baking...) like the ones Judge Gallagher was giving out each day to His Jurors at Ed and Gary's PC2010 trials.

I can't morally feed children that stuff they want to feed us, but hey how about an "Everybody's Park" Faire SOON in SLP?

I like that organizing invitation above, but am too tired or broken to stand up and be counted (on) just now. Hope for change in the weather...

I did learn heckuva LOT from being part of the Santa Cruz Union of the Homeless, years back. Real street heat balanced by adequate diversity of opinions and spending longer "meeting" times as needed. Incredible networking, no cell phones then, weekly illustrated calendars getting somehow all over downtown by foot!, "everyone meets at home plate 5 pm daily" polity.

It was all ages showing up for weekly meetings, and all levels of broken people and vital people. Shawn of Feed the People and a whole houseful of Food Not Bombs cooks came regularly. There was a poet and a daycare manager and a brilliant, award-winning illustration artist working daily for pie and sandwiches.

At first it was held in the closed hours of a hot dog/snack stand between downtown City of SC and the Beach (now a civic parking lot - I read its about to get a 24-hr potty?). I often felt Kim was the brains and the heart for many of us. It was one of those 'golden year' cycles, when there were a number of capable legal researchers, passing on their gleanings. There were Copwatch Tables along Pacific Avenue, including in front of sponsor Zachary's, the union of homeless folks underwrote reams of copied information sheets for those tablers. And I remember Robert Flory and Wonton Dave especially as skeptical allies, and Lotus and her coffee.

Memory Lane ... but back to intentions, why not invite the older girl scouts, (n boy scouts), ucsc folks who want to meet new people, others, to bring their game(s) to San Lorenzo Park, turn this turf polarity into a picnic with music and summertime fun. Music. What else?

Would love to see what the kids in their 20s are sharing, personally, and to feel more outdoor culture. Maybe the time for a healing along the riverbanks?

The First Alarm Security guards and various fringe groups manned by Take Back Santa Cruz (TBSC) vigilantes — like the ones harassing RV dwellers and taking videos of Homeless Services Center clients — accomplished step #3 of the blueprint for shutting down a democracy as described by Naomi Wolf.

Read this article:

To quote:

"3. Develop a thug caste

When leaders who seek what I call a "fascist shift" want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens. The Blackshirts roamed the Italian countryside beating up communists; the Brownshirts staged violent rallies throughout Germany. This paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution.

The years following 9/11 have proved a bonanza for America's security contractors, with the Bush administration outsourcing areas of work that traditionally fell to the US military. In the process, contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been issued for security work by mercenaries at home and abroad. In Iraq, some of these contract operatives have been accused of involvement in torturing prisoners, harassing journalists and firing on Iraqi civilians. Under Order 17, issued to regulate contractors in Iraq by the one-time US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, these contractors are immune from prosecution

Yes, but that is in Iraq, you could argue; however, after Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security hired and deployed hundreds of armed private security guards in New Orleans. The investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill interviewed one unnamed guard who reported having fired on unarmed civilians in the city. It was a natural disaster that underlay that episode - but the administration's endless war on terror means ongoing scope for what are in effect privately contracted armies to take on crisis and emergency management at home in US cities.

Thugs in America? Groups of angry young Republican men, dressed in identical shirts and trousers, menaced poll workers counting the votes in Florida in 2000. If you are reading history, you can imagine that there can be a need for "public order" on the next election day. Say there are protests, or a threat, on the day of an election; history would not rule out the presence of a private security firm at a polling station "to restore public order"."

Does this sound familiar to readers? It should! Be warned, a coup is currently being executed by rightwing politicians led by Mayor Lynn Robinson, pushed by TBSC and bankrolled by rich locals like the Locatelli family which owns New Leaf markets.

What scares me the most and should scare the hell out of you is that this coup is farther along than any of us could have imagined. Immediate action with a counter push by democracy activists is fundamental to saving our community from being completely taken over and remolded in Lynn Robinson's and TBSC's perverse fantasy image. We don't have much time left.

I feel like a Santa Cruz version of Paul Revere. Will compassionate citizens wake up in time?