Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz city and county leaders unite to target repeat offenders

City and county will share resources to place repeat offenders in programs specially designed for each offender

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Downtown Santa Cruz has its own unique identity.

"You have a really lively crowd with a lot of the college kids," said Stacey Kock, assistant manager at Verve Coffee Roasters in downtown.

Downtown is also known to have troublemakers, some that keep coming back. Kock knows that firsthand.

"We have had a couple of people come in continuously, we've had to ask them to take off a couple of times and then it does get to the point where we have to call the police and have them come and escort them out or ask them to stop coming here," said Kock.

It's gotten so bad, Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel says it takes police resources away from other calls.

"I've got more personnel assigned down here than I do anywhere else in the city," said Vogel.

Now, the city and county will begin what they are calling the Pacific Garden Mall Pilot Program. The focus will be on habitual offenders in the downtown area. In a press conference to announce the program Monday, Santa Cruz County District Attorney Bob Lee said it's for those who are committing crimes. Lee said this will not apply for "homeless crimes."

These repeat offenders will still go through the system (i.e. arrests, jail, court), but instead of just being released from jail, they will appear in front of a judge who will be dedicated to this program. A team consisting of county health officers, probation officers, and police among other city and county services will establish and outline a unique plan specifically for the offender, one that hopes to gets to the root of why offenders keep committing the crimes.

"Each person has their own set of needs, and this program caters to that," said Analicia Cube, Take Back Santa Cruz president.

Cube says the city can no longer "arrest" the problem away.

"We needed this a decade ago," said Cube.

The team will meet every day for the next eight months in an office in Downtown Santa Cruz and keep everyone updated on the progress of the offender. Lee said this will provide accountability and it will be transparent.

Chief Vogel hopes this will reduce the number of police calls to the area, which means his officers can focus their energy on more "pressing issues in the city."

Business owners here seem happy to see something being done.

"If there is anyway that we can assist in having things go more peacefully, and more calmly, I'm all for it," said Kock.

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