Friday, September 24, 2010

Forty Turnout for Boulder Creek Community Meeting on Public Safety

Note:  The following is an edited account of a community meeting held recently in Boulder Creek and compiled from notes made by Felton resident and SLV Chamber of Commerce Director Mary Andersen.

On Wednesday, Sept 15th, about 40 people gathered at the Boulder Creek Fire Department for a community meeting on crime and public safety.  The meeting was organized by Denese Matthes at the behest of the the family of a Boulder Creek assault victim..  

Deborah Elston, the founder of  Santa Cruz Neighbors  whose family has a long history in the Big Basin area, stepped up and moderated the meeting sharing suggestions on how residents and neighborhoods can organize to report and prevent crime. Elston’s emphasis was on the community being the “eyes and ears for law enforcement” and to “constantly use 911” when appropriate. She informed attendees about recent local legislation that grew from the input of neighborhood groups and meetings like this one. She also addressed how these meetings bring people from all sides of the political spectrum together as neighborhood safety and crime is a nonpartisan issue and that it’s always interesting having people from the right and left sitting next to each other in agreement.

Santa Cruz Sheriff Sergeant Jim Ross spoke on local public safety issues and what the department is doing to monitor and prevent crime as well as gather sufficient data to prosecute. There was much discussion on how to report crimes and help the sheriff capture perpetrators. The frequent reporting of crimes helps the department to map hot spot areas. He described the various online tools found at the Felton Sheriff’s Center website including abandoned vehicle reporting, crime reporting and a mapping tool the enables the department to pinpoint problem areas. .

One resident indicated that with a population of 30,000 the San Lorenzo Valley could use expanded law enforcement. Especially due to the remote nature of many homes in northern Boulder Creek, a Sheriff’s center there would cut response time.

Ross noted that as a result of the savings accrued from moving in with Cal Fire additional staff has become available for the Valley and that all parks are now routinely patrolled.  However, funding constraints do limit the total number of officers available.  Sgt Ross asserted that Boulder Creek does not have significantly more crime, in comparison, than any other area in the county.

Boulder Creek Recreation and Parks District director, Paul Storm was impressed with the turnout at the meeting and he encouraged  them to act together to work on local crime issues.  He cited four areas where he thought more attention could be focused:  youth,. drug and alcohol abuse, outside influences, and economic issues. Storm also expressed concern over law enforcement response time and strongly agreed that Boulder Creek needed its own Sheriff’s Station.

A number of residents spoke about recent criminal activity in Boulder Creek, all confirming that events described were reported and logged by law enforcement.  Youth probation advocate, Sara Siegel, echoed the call to report anything that looked like a crime and to always file a police report.
Karin Ann Park, owner of Joe’s Bar in downtown Boulder Creek, shared her opinion that much of the trouble could be accounted for by the activities of some young adults who are well known in the community, sons and daughters of notable local residents, who connect with each other via text messages and cell phones and can quickly escalate a situation.  They are also adept at avoiding police detection she said.  A number of others present also believed that many of the perpetrators of vandalism and assault are well known within the community.

One attendee expressed dismay that none of the local print or online venues, other than the Press Banner, made notice of the meeting, even though many were informed and that none sent a representative.  Another expressed concern over the lack of equitable information to all groups. He suggested that certain groups are “in the know” while others are left out. He applauded the effort to form more open communication.

Elston explained how the local press report crime and that many publications do not have the resources or space for complete crime reporting.  Others suggested Neighborhood Watch, telephone trees or online groups on Yahoo or Google or other resources like might be effective ways to communicate what is going on.

Attendees on the way out were unanimous in their appreciation for the event and for the guest speakers. Business cards were exchanged and an email list was gathered to disseminate further information.

Follow up events planned include coordinating with the Santa Cruz Meth Project for a community event as well as presentations by Sgt. Ross on organizing Neighborhood Watch groups throughout the San Lorenzo Valley.

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