Comments Off on Santa Barbara Police Say Methamphetamine and Pot Use on the Rise – May be Tied to a Increase in Residential and Auto Burglaries

Methamphetamine and marijuana use is on the rise in Santa Barbara, and may be tied to a spree of residential and auto burglaries, according to the Santa Barbara Police Department.

Meth use is up possibly because of its relatively low cost on the street compared to heroin and cocaine, Sgt. Alex Altavilla said during a recent City Council budget hearing.

“Santa Barbara is a really, really beautiful place, but we always recommend that you go ahead and lock your home when you leave,” Altavilla said. “And when you leave your car, try not to leave anything inside that’s in plain view, and go ahead and lock your vehicle, too.”

Heroin right now is $1,000 to $1,200 an ounce, Altavilla said.

Methamphetamine is $350 to $500 an ounce, which it makes it something everyone is kind of interested in because of the low cost,” he said.

Santa Barbara experienced 21 unusual residential burglaries between Feb. 3 and March 6.

“We do know that there is a subset of people that use narcotics that actually go out and do burglaries,” Altavilla said.

He also noted that applications for marijuana dispensaries are on the rise.

Altavilla was one of the several speakers who gave updates during the Police Department and Fire Department budget presentations.

The department is also struggling to increase its staffing levels.

“We’re hurting for people,” Police Chief Cam Sanchez said.

The Police Department is down between nine and 12 employees from injuries, he said.

Sanchez also temporarily suspended the use of a school resource officer.

“I feel the pain of not having a school resource officer, but to deplete patrol would not be a good thing,” Sanchez said.

The department has seven vacancies and expects to lose about seven more through retirements or to other police departments, according to Capt. Gil Torres.

He said he hopes to hire 15 people out of the police academy over the course of the next year.

Torres said the Police Department is competing with heavy recruitment efforts from places such as the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, which advertises starting salaries of $75,000 to $105,000, about $14,000 higher than the Santa Barbara Police Department at the high end.

Fire Department officials also spoke at the meeting, with Fire Chief Pat McElroy saying the department is looking to improve its 9-1-1 dispatch efforts by installing a computerized version of the existing flip chart that allows dispatchers to quickly offer assistance on how to treat the person calling.

McElroy also said the department wants to develop a Spanish-language certified training program to increase accessibility to the Spanish-speaking community.

He said the volume of Spanish-speaking calls is “not an insignificant number.” He also said that many of the calls that come in are from European tourists.

“We have a tremendous amount of people from Europe, from all over the world, especially during high tourism season,” McElroy said. “There’s a lot of languages we are running across.”

http://www.noozhawk.com/article/santa_barbara_police_meth_pot_use_on_rise_20150525

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