Santa Monica is Indeed Unsafe
City Manager White and Police Chief Batista - Please Listen to Us
April 21, 2022
By John Alle, Local Business Owner
I am responding to the Opinion piece co-authored by City Manager David White and Police Chief Ramon Batista. They responded to the "recent local and regional news coverage of a report portraying Santa Monica as unsafe".
I have lived, played and/or worked in Santa Monica since the 1970's. My son attended and graduated from from school here in Santa Monica.
The City Manager's and Police Chief's only factual statement is that the "messages (from the media) are difficult to listen to...."
Their problem is that they acknowledge they listen to "our City Council and leadership team, to improve the quality of life for our residents and businesses." Unfortunately they are not listening to the residents and businesses who are actually on the streets every day. Published polls and studies, including the City's, have shown that 86% of our residents do not visit Downtown over concerns of crime, homelessness and lack of cleanliness. And we are losing our retail and ground floor businesses who fund about 37% of the City's budget through sales and business license taxes.
Homeless are dying on the streets, residents and business owners are physically being attacked, and many others are harassed.
Two polls conducted and published by the City show 71% to 83% of residents do not want Parking Garage 3 demolished. But you, City Manager White, made the decision to close it (weeks before demolition began) on Super Bowl Weekend, and before all the 'welcome back' festivities on the Promenade and Downtown commenced. The result for every weekend afternoon since has been traffic congestion on 2nd and 4th Streets.
* Our City Council and you, City Manager, have created funding and bureaucratic obstacles to hiring additional sworn police officers. In a recent City Council meeting, you were vocal for instead hiring more staffing for your office, including a 2nd HR person.
* Police Chief Batista stated last November that due to disability, the number of sworn officers was down from 206 to + - 145. And, that former interim Police Chief Jackie Seabrooks had transferred 6 sworn officers to desk jobs to "calm the storm" after the May 31st riot. During a recent neighborhood meeting, the Chief admitted he is up to 170 sworn officers, but the real number should be at 230.
* By allowing a private out-of-state company, who labels itself a "social advocacy organization" (Block-by-Block, Inc.), to patrol our Downtown and Promenade "instead of our Police," the City Manager is shortchanging our residents and businesses. The $450,000 a month that the DTSM Board of Directors voted to hire an outside firm would be better spent on sworn Police officers and/or Sheriff Deputies.
* Our investigations and 3-year documentation show the Block-by-Block organization here to be corrupt and inept. So much so, that its Ambassadors have been seen drunk and getting high on the street while on the job. And their supervisors acknowledge such. We have informed our Mayor, City Council and DTSM, Inc Board Members. There have been no responses or expressions of concern so far.
* Unlike Police Chief Batista, City Manager David White has not responded nor returned my calls and emails, and those from others, showing photos of syringes, drug dealing, homeless sleeping in the Garage Dumpster Rooms and stairwells, and storefronts blocked by tents and encampments. City Manager White did not even respond to the 2 doctors who walked these areas and warned of resulting infectious disease.
* The drone surveillance technology is great, but in a small City of 8.3 square miles and only 93,000 residents, Police Officers seen visibly walking the streets builds mutual trust and respect among residents and business owners. That is missing. Most store managers are not even calling in acts of vandalism. And the City Manager will not deploy the cameras in our Downtown retail area and Promenade....because certain vocal Councilmembers "want security and safety, but just don't want to see Police or cameras."
* The City Manager and Police Chief are correct in writing that last year the Santa Monica Fire Department launched the Community Response Unit (CRU) that "looks like an ambulance unit and has as its mission to address the needs of 'vulnerable' populations in Santa Monica, including those experiencing homelessness." The problem is this service is available only on Monday thru Thursday from 9 am to 4 pm. Those are not peak hours. And what happens when the homeless (65%) pull out their usual 6" knife, chain or stick, sometimes a gun and strike or attack the unarmed mental health professional?
City Manager White, the greatest need for police with mental health professionals is from Thursday thru Sunday, and from 11:30 pm to 7 am. You have selected the wrong hours. Our Downtown does not have Police coverage or security on the streets during these hours unless 911 is dialed.
The City Manager and Police Chief state they "look forward to engaging in conversation and listening and learning from (our) experiences". But as of this writing, City Manager White has not responded to emails and phone calls from many in Santa Monica, and has not responded to a request to join the Police Chief, residents, business owners and City Council in a "Community Meeting."