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Problematic "Public Safety" Recommendations to be Presented to City Council 12/3
by Steve Schnaar
Tuesday Nov 26th, 2013 12:38 PM
The Santa Cruz Public Safety Task Force has completed their work and is presenting their recommendations to City Council on Tues, 12/3 7pm. The recommendations include some positive, proven ideas like funding drug treatment and after-school youth programs. However the report also recommends ideas which are not evidence-based, such as misdemeanor charges for multiple infractions, restricting the needle exchange program, and increasing the size of the police force based on sloppy statistics. Come to City Hall on 12/3 to let the Council know this report does not represent a community consensus.
The Santa Cruz City Council created the Public Safety Task Force in response to a public perception of rising violent crime, including the shocking murders of officers Butler and Baker. Mayor Hilary Bryant picked 15 citizens to form the Task Force, which met regularly for months and will be presenting their findings to the City Council on December 3rd, 7pm. Their report and policy recommendations are available online here:

Addressing a wide range of issues, the report states that Santa Cruz´ property and violent crime rates are more akin to those of inner cities than other cities of comparable size. Particular areas of interest are drug addiction; alcohol-fueled violence; gang culture among young men; and a large per capita homeless population, which in conjunction with addiction and/or mental illness “may result in public nuisance and criminal behaviors”.

Charged with using an evidence-based approach, the Task Force recommends many positive, proven ideas including better funding for drug treatment and intervention programs, after-school youth programs, and environmental design changes like improved lighting in high-crime areas.
Unfortunately, the Task Force report includes many other ideas which are not evidence-based, including tougher sentencing such as misdemeanor charges for multiple infractions, restricting the needle exchange program, increasing the size of the police force based on sloppy statistics, and attacking marijuana cultivation and use.

A group of concerned citizens, including Steve Schnaar, Peter Klotz-Chamberlin, Rick Longinotti, Stacey Falls, Mary Howe, Doug Engfer, & Brent Adams, sat down to review the material and came up with a list of concerns about the Task Force recommendations:

1. Inaccurate statistics:

A. Statistics suggesting the SCPD is understaffed

The report states that an average police force for a city of 60,000 is about 140 sworn officers, in contrast to the current SCPD force of 94, with 6 vacancies. They recommend we increase our police to meet the average. Yet their number is not based on actual police forces of other similarly-sized cities. Rather, their method was to simply divide the total US population by total number of police. Looking at 14 cities in Northern and Central California with population counts between 55,000 and 65,000 (Santa Cruz' population is 62,000), Santa Cruz has the largest number of sworn police officer positions in its budget. The next highest is Palo Alto with 87; the lowest is Rocklin with 52; and the average is 70.

B. Statistics connecting the Homeless Services Center to arrests

The report also states that, "Calls for service [to the SCPD] are at an all-time high, and individuals that self-affiliated with the Homeless Services Center (by providing 115 Coral Street address at the time of arrest) accounted for about 40% of arrests and 30% of citations in 2012." In fact these numbers reflect a broader category of "homeless" individuals, including three different address designations (115 Coral Street, "transient" or "homeless"). The numbers definitely do not refer only to people self-identifying as connected to 115 Coral.

2. Unscientific and counterproductive calls to restrict needle exchange programs:

While we all agree it is a good goal to reduce and hopefully eliminate the existence of littered syringes, the Task Force recommendations to relocate Syringe Services Program (SSP) outside of residential areas, to prevent additional syringe exchanges from operating within the City, and to insist on a 1 to 1 exchange policy are not based on any evidence that they would in fact reduce the number of littered needles.

Alex Kral, PhD, a public health expert with years of research on syringe exchange programs, and currently Director of the Urban Health Program for RTI International in San Francisco, visited Santa Cruz last April to participate in one of the Forums on Community Safety and Compassion. His findings, based on studies from various cities over more than a decade, found that syringe exchange programs (most of which do not use a 1 to 1 policy) decrease syringe sharing, reduce littered needles, and do not contribute to more drug use or young people starting to inject. For example in San Francisco, which has a robust needle exchange program, they found that 13% of users disposed of needles improperly, while in Miami, which has no needle exchange program, they found 95% of users disposed of needles improperly.

Here is a link to a RTI article showing that needle exchanges in San Francisco reduce the threat to the public of littered needles:

3. Problematic assumptions and policy recommendations with respect to homelessness:

One Task Force recommendation is the creation of "a specialty court model for substance abusers, veterans, mentally ill and/or homeless offenders". While we support the use of specialty courts designed to help people connect with helpful services, it is important for us as a community to recognize that lack of housing, substance abuse, and mental illness are separate issues. While overlap obviously occurs, a careful approach recognizes these as separate issues and does not assume that the same responses apply to people suffering each of these situations.

The Task Force also recommends increased punishments for infractions associated with lack of housing. Of particular note are misdemeanors charges for multiple citations of illegal camping, and for defecating in public. As human beings everyone must sleep and relieve their wastes, and to make a crime out of these necessary biological activities is disrespectful, dehumanizing, and bound to clog the courts with a problem that needs to be resolved elsewhere. There is also no evidence to suggest that such punishments would actually improve public health and safety.

It is also notable that throughout the Task Force document homelessness is mentioned repeatedly as a threat to others, but there is no mention about threats to homeless individuals themselves. Homeless individuals are also part of the public, and are very vulnerable to theft, attacks, and sexual assaults. However these public safety recommendations seem to only make homeless individuals less safe.

4. Harsher sentencing is ineffective, and contradictory to State mandates:

We question the Task Force recommendation for harsher punishments, including that misdemeanor warrants be issued after three failures to address citations. Given the targeted population, it's unclear whether a misdemeanor, with its threat of jail time, will be an effective deterrent to the behaviors the Task Force is hoping to curb. The resolution of nuisance behaviors through a focus on incarceration prevents the community from focusing on effective and proven solutions to these problems.

On this subject, the Task Force Report appears not to heed the advice of its guest panelists: "Universally, panelists were adamant that funding of prevention and intervention programs within schools, County Health and Human Services, treatment non-profits, and the criminal justice system, are more cost-effective in reducing crime compared to incarceration." (Task Force Report -

Here are a few articles on studies finding that harsher punishments do not reduce recidivism, and may in fact be counter-productive:

5. Cracking down on marijuana cultivation is unsupported by evidence:

The Report recommends a ban of any marijuana cultivation in residential areas. In addition to violating the State´s medical marijuana provisions, this recommendation is unsupported by evidence as to effectiveness in addressing the social problems under Task Force purview.

After decades of a costly War on Drugs which is failing to curb drug use and abuse, the national trend has been towards drug policy reform, including the voter-approved legalization of marijuana last year in Washington and Colorado. In fact the US population now favors marijuana legalization by a 58 to 39 margin:

6. Domestic violence and sexual assault:

The Task Force convened subsequent to the killings of two police officers while they were investigating sexual predatory behavior. Though domestic violence and sexual assault represent a large share of the violence in our community, the only recommendations regarding those problems are to increase "community education" and to collaborate with the school system "to ensure all youth are educated" in those topics. We urge a more thorough consideration of prevention programs to address this problem.

7. Funding recommendations fall short:

We applaud the Report for its emphasis on reducing criminal recidivism. However, we are concerned that the report is lacking in recommending City funds for that purpose, relying instead on the County "to insure that proven, evidence-based interventions and treatment programs ...are adequately funded". The Report notes that "The Serial Inebriate Program (SIP) and Drug Court are successful models for treatment and recidivism reduction, yet remain underfunded". Without the City offering ways that these programs could be funded, we are concerned that the status quo will remain unchanged.

8. Assertions unsupported by cited facts, and terms not clearly defined:

The report includes many assertions which are not supported by cited facts. For example, the report states that "drug addiction is rampant", without any statistics, nor any effort to define addiction or distinguish between addiction and use. The report also uses the phrase "high-risk alcohol outlet", stating that we have more than is typical for a town of our size. Yet there is no data comparing the prevalence of such outlets here to comparable cities. Likewise, the report describes tourism as the "bedrock" of the city's economy, without citing any numbers relating to how much economic activity is tourism-based. These are but a few examples to demonstrate the lack of vigor one would hope for in a document of this gravity.


To the Santa Cruz City Council:

We appreciate the hard work of the City’s Public Safety Task Force and admire the time and dedication provided by our fellow citizens. We applaud the Task Force’s widely-supported recommendations for increased drug treatment programs and for an enhanced commitment to positive youth programs. We look forward to working with other community members to bring these recommendations to fruition.

We are concerned that at least a few of the recommendations represent an unproductive approach to public safety. We support an approach to needle exchange that is logical and evidence-based rather than one resting on the unproven assertion that a needle exchange is the cause of our community’s improperly disposed needles. We support a positive approach to addressing the problematic impacts of homelessness rather than one that relies so heavily on punitive measures that will lead to additional costly incarcerations for minor infractions. We support a collaborative approach to working with the court system and county government rather than a demanding, one-sided approach.

Because the Task Force recommendations, taken as a whole, do not consistently represent the kind of evidence-based and positive approach that we expect for our community, we urge you to be careful and selective as you consider adoption of those recommendations.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by John E. Colby
Tuesday Nov 26th, 2013 8:14 PM
This deconstruction of the so called Public Safety Commission was excellent, lucid and cited valid sources.

Thank you for your work. I doubt the City Council will consider your recommendations, since they don't fit the agenda of the right wing members who court Take Back Santa Cruz.

This is just what we need: a fact squad dogging the City Council and Take Back Santa Cruz to educate the public, inoculating them against hateful bigotry.
by Becky Johnson
Tuesday Nov 26th, 2013 9:41 PM
I applaud this critique of the Public Safety Task Force recommendations which will be considered by the Council on their Dec. 3rd agenda. I wanted to add a few things I noted.

One of those testifying, "Nate", a self-described recovering addict told the TF that people can no longer go into a regular pharmacy and buy up to 30 needles at a reasonable cost as the law allows.
"That USED to be the case. But now, all the pharmacies but one (which is in Capitola) require documentation that you are a diabetic before they will sell you any needles." Nate also told them that "A clean rig is hard to find," and that "a lot of needle-sharing is going on as a result." He decried the closing of the mobile needle-exchange that used to come regularly to a Barson St. address. So the TF heard that closing the Needle Exchange IS causing needle-sharing to occur.

Judge John Salazar told them that "20% of those in Santa Cruz County jails are there for minor offenses." He told them "70% are there for property crimes or drug crimes. 15% are there for possession alone." With jail overcrowding being a huge problem, filling up our jails with people who don't belong there is hardly any solution.

As for the types of crimes for which homeless people contribute to the "over 40% arrests, over 30% citations" many of them aren't even crimes if committed by a housed person.
Here are these crimes as documented by the SCPD for the Homelessness Study Session of Santa Cruz City Council found here: (Thanks! TBSC!)

California Penal Code (PC) PC § 484A – Theft

PC § 647(f) – Public Intoxication

PC § 1203.2 – Probation Violation

SCMC § 6.36 – Camping in City Limits Prohibited

SCMC § 9.10 – Panhandling (Prohibited Locations, Manner, Time)

SCMC § 9.12 – Consumption of Alcohol in Public

SCMC § 9.50 – Prohibited Conduct on Public Property

Housed people can consume alcohol and even become drunk in their homes without being labeled criminals.
"Camping" in Santa Cruz MEANS "sleeping" "using a blanket" and setting up ANY structure to protect oneself from the rain, wind, or cold.
These are hardly activities for which a housed person would find themselves doing. In fact, a housed person can do this exact same
activity LEGALLY in their own backyard!

Missing from the list are violent crimes, home invasions, home burglaries, or any significant drug crimes.
Scandalously missing from the list is the disturbing rape statistics, or the obvious public safety emergency of
over 30 homeless deaths each year.

"A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest" --- from "The Boxer" --Simon & Garfunkel

by John E. Colby
Tuesday Nov 26th, 2013 9:48 PM
What seems to be strangely absent from the so called Public Safety Commission's findings are that sexual violence against women and children should be a primary public safety concern for the City Council.

Why has Kristen Long — an attorney at the Baskin & Grant law firm who is the secretary of the Diversity Center — been almost completely silent about sexual violence against women and children being a fundamental concern to our community?

For example, both the Public Safety Commission and Take Back Santa Cruz (TBSC) have completely ignored the widening investigation of alleged child sex predator Dylan Greiner, who was a TBSC leader. The media seems to be paying attention to Greiner's alleged crimes.

What message does this send to women and their children in this town?
by shh..don't scare the tourists
Tuesday Nov 26th, 2013 10:20 PM
of course the task force ignores rapists and child molesters, they need the support of those TBSC members. the police even harbored a molester of their own for years.
the authorities don't want the nation at large to find out though, that would mean less tourists and students attending UCSC.
by G
Wednesday Nov 27th, 2013 8:22 AM
Why are UCSC students so quiet, when it comes to violence against women and children?! On and off campus.

Local high schoolers?

Concerned parents?

The 'safety' report makes it clear that the homeless are an explicit target of hate. Implicit targets of hate need protection as well, although even the existence of victims of rape may be a 'myth', given their COMPLETE ABSENCE in those 'crime statistics'. Or, perhaps, those statistics are purpose filled lies...
by Lillie
Wednesday Nov 27th, 2013 11:54 AM
Clear analysis of the final report. Thanks for starting the conversation.

Fear and panic have led to an escalating war on race/class and poverty. The wars on drugs, gangs, terrorism are right here. Government is not the answer, not more enforcement and not more supports. The people need to focus and collaborate on caring for each other.
by brent is always
Saturday Nov 30th, 2013 12:56 AM
this is probably one of the most significant pieces of writing affecting homeless and poor people.
I ask that you consider featuring it so it will get a bigger readership.
by Robert Norse
(rnorse3 [at] Saturday Nov 30th, 2013 4:29 PM
Instead of working on real solutions to the mutual needs of the housed and homeless community, for the last six months, the Citizens Task Force on Public Safety has repeated the tired old mantras attacking homeless people as drug abusers, bad campers, bums, and nuisance criminals.

The hand-picked group has ignored the obvious: campgrounds for the several thousand homeless outside, and such minimal services as trash pick-ups & basic sanitary facilities. These are currently being addressed (over the complaints of city authorities by activists in cities like Fresno and Palo Alto.

Instead City Council itself has passed a series of laws designed to please the most blinkered and bigoted segments of the community, pander to the fearful, and ignore best practices and common sense. Closing the Barson St. needle exchange instead of expanding proper needle disposal containers. Criminalizing homeless people in parks through new “stay-away orders prior to conviction” and adding Cowell's Beach curfew to the now-First Amendment-free curfews around the library and City Hall.

Making holding a political (or “will work for food” sign on street medians and roundabouts) a crime and transforming the average street performer, vendor, or tabler into a de facto criminal through shrinking allowable sidewalk space to less than 5% of the sidewalk. And the most recent drive to criminalize traditional protest activity when it spills into the street—promising nasty penalties and high street-closing and liability costs under upcoming Mayor “Redneck” Robinson.

Real “Public Safety” means involving the whole community instead of turning it against the poorest. It would mean appointing representatives of all groups to work out real solutions instead of imposing tired cranky “make Santa Cruz unwelcome to the poor” homeless-hostile scams. Recognizing the roots of problems instead of slipping back into ridiculous Drug War rhetoric. Ending the quick and dirty City Council approval-before-examination process.

It's hardly worth one's time to read the Task Force report with its pre-established focus on and branding of homeless people in the ridiculous role of being the New Menace. The political motivation for doing this is as transparent as it is absurd. . Making life harder for disfavored groups like homeless people, travelers, & counter-culture folks. This has long been on the agenda of the conservative factions in the city staff, the SCPD, the Downtown Association, Santa Cruz Neighbors, and those who turn one bad experience on Pacific Avenue into a life-long vendetta.

Same sour stupid stuff. Nothing new here. Just all dressed up to fool the unwary.

For more extended commentary, go to "Another Response to the Task Farce and the Schnaar Critique" at .
by John Colby
Sunday Dec 1st, 2013 3:27 PM
Do you think Lynn Robinson and her rightwing cohorts on the City Council are evil people? do you believe that evil people exist? what does it say about Santa Cruz that they keep reelecting Lynn and her mob?

BTW: Lynn Robinson, Cynthia Mathews and David Terrazas are bankrolled by their über wealthy planning commissioner Mari Tustin — she is worth about $50M — the John Stewart Company SVP they gave the Tannery Arts Center contract to.

John Stewart Company critics in the Bay Area complain that Mr. Stewart has bought a whole bunch of Democratic politicians: he basically owns the SF political machine as well as having a whole bunch of state legislators, congressional reps and even our senators in his pocket (or should i say his pocketbook). sources report that John Stewart buys up local government pols and staff to gain favors and grease the wheels.

it's all on the Internet. start googling.
and is there an easy to read blog/website that people who want more info can go to?
(besides indybay which is multi-issues and sometimes hard to find things)
by Razer Ray
Monday Dec 2nd, 2013 8:51 AM
JC: Do you think Lynn Robinson and her rightwing cohorts on the City Council are evil people?

I think the people at the top of TBSC are 'evil' in the sense they obviously don't have the interests of the WHOLE community in mind which DOES include displaced/disenfranchised workers aka 'the homeless', a convenient way of vilifying a broad variety of people, many fallen into drug/alcohol abuse due to that displacement, and vilifies them without regard to race, religion etc.

TBSC most CERTAINLY has an agenda that's NOT spoken of, but on the other hand, not really secret. Commercial Property & "Economic Development" interests. I don't believe the typical member is consciously aware of that, or if they noticed would even be concerned about it.

JC: do you believe that evil people exist? what does it say about Santa Cruz that they keep reelecting Lynn and her mob?

A> Yes.
B> It says they're fearful (and not just of 'creepy people' or crime... economically fearful. There are few "rich" people in Santa Cruz. Most are middle class finding out how much it costs to act rich), and reactionary in response to disinformational agitprop.

They're quite busy in the "Rat Race" trying to make enough $$$ to live like 'normal human beings' (aka "The Joneses") in a DRAMATICALLY OVERPRICED town where they most likely wont live for more than a decade and don't really have time to get out much or for that matter analyze what they're reading in the paper. They're social conformists. They do what their neighbors do. They stop smoking because everyone else they know did... etc, and they listen to the media and groups who have the media's ear like it's their neighbor talking.

If anyone likes to do research I'd suggest getting the census data for Santa Cruz over the last 20 years or so and charting the average residency time over those years. I think the results would be shocking regarding the decline in permanent residents, replaced by "Transients".

TBSC's ability to 'shape minds' about the future of Santa Cruz DEPENDS on those transients.

They think it's 'community involvement', and it COULD be. Have you seen all the condo ads saying things like "Live in a REAL community" locally? Many of these people never have, and now that they live here instead of bedroom suburban areas of LA NY or Chicago (for instance), they desperately want that. They're easily fooled into a false 'sense of community'. They think attending TBSC events and going to the Farmers Market is the totality of what makes community.

Besides, they're really really busy trying to keep the income coming and really don't have time for much else.


Here's the CorporationWiki Social Network for Mari Tustin

She has one person in her network.

Elizabeth Oaks

...located in Santa Cruz, CA. Elizabeth Oaks industry is listed as Apartment Building Operators.

Key People

Jack Baskin serves as the Owner

He has a larger network... Have fun.

Personally, I KNOW almost all of the social mayhem I've seen since the earthquake is due to influence of commercial property owners NOT LOCAL to Santa Cruz ie Investors in REI Funds who live in... let's say "Peoria", whose only concern is ROI UBER ALLES and all else, including the pandering to the fear of the business in re 'street people' trickles down.

It IS a rational fear you know? The commercial property owners have jacked the lease rates up so high in a failing market nationwide, "Shopping Malls", that are being abandoned across the US like Drive-in Theatres were abandoned in the 70s, that it IS possible to pander the fear of SMALL business owner (emphasis on 'small') looking at a street performer as they pass by the merchant's window existentially affecting their ability to stay in business or make payroll.

I feel for them too. I know a few. Like the police, they're stuck in the middle of a socioeconomic mess created by city policy that panders to revenue above all else without consideration of the source of revenue or it's effect on the few permanent residents left in the wake of their economic/job/housing policies.
by Razer Ray
Monday Dec 2nd, 2013 8:58 AM
" IS possible to pander the fear of SMALL business owner (emphasis on 'small') looking at a street performer as they pass by the merchant's window existentially affecting their ability to stay in business or make payroll."

Should read:
" IS possible to pander the fear of SMALL business owners (emphasis on 'small')feeling a passerby looking at a street performer as they walk by the merchant's window, instead of their display, existentially affecting the store owner's ability to stay in business or make payroll."
by John E. Colby
Monday Dec 2nd, 2013 1:33 PM

Thank you for answering my questions. I appreciated your answers, which were very astute.

Other questions:

• What do you think it will require for Santa Cruz activists to counter the rightwing pols and their allies in Take Back Santa Cruz, if they can?
• How do we counter the easily apparent yet effective propaganda campaign they have conducted to win over the hearts and minds of those you pointed out are essentially transients with a genuine need to experience a sense of community?

You have been very generous towards the sensibilities of small business owners, which I agree with. But how do you feel about the select few, who are actually very wealthy, bankrolling both rightwing politicians like Lynn Robinson and Take Back Santa Cruz? Do you empathize with them too?

Thanx for the corporate wiki links. You might be surprised that I already have these and know much more about Mari Tustin and Jack Baskin than others realize — I have been researching their activities for the last several years: they are power brokers who have undue influence over local, state and even federal government. I discovered all of this in the course of my research on the Mission Gardens Apartments (once owned by Jack Baskin and now managed by Mari Tustin). I am also aware of the connections between these two and numerous other movers and shakers in the community.

Eventually their corrupt practices will be held to the light of day. Thank you gain for your lucid analysis coming from your unique perspective of this town.