September 7, 2022 10:58 AM
by David White, Ramon Batista
Dear Santa Monica Community:
Under the leadership of Santa Monica’s City Council, addressing public safety and quality of life in the Downtown area is a top priority. We are dedicated to making the City of Santa Monica a safe and welcoming place and ensuring the City offers a high quality of life for residents, workers, and visitors. The City deploys a comprehensive and collaborative approach to meet community needs by focusing on public safety, hospitality, maintenance, sanitation, and custodial services, working in close partnership with Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, and Santa Monica Travel & Tourism. The City has adapted our operations recently. We are seeing positive results, and we want to keep you informed.
Our City Council has asked us to provide periodic updates on our work to address public safety on the Third Street Promenade and Downtown. In response to the request from residents and business owners, the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) mobilized additional resources to increase the public safety presence and outreach efforts in Downtown. The police department increased the number of sworn and professional staff in the Downtown area, with a focus on the Third Street Promenade. The first wave of additional personnel began in May 2022 and consisted of additional police and public service officers on bicycles, as well as the Neighborhood Resource Officer specifically working on the Promenade to address business concerns associated with criminal behavior. In addition, Downtown Services Unit officers are working in a collaborative fashion with Big Blue Bus to address passenger safety concerns at Downtown bus stops. Lastly, this first effort included private security with Allied Security, ensuring a late-night presence in our downtown parking structures.
The second surge of police personnel occurred over the past four weeks, where the Police Department conducted a series of public health and safety operations throughout the Downtown area. The additional resources were a combination of the Directed Action Response Team (DaRT), Homeless Liaison Program (HLP) Team, Traffic, Public Service Officers, and Patrol Officers. These personnel and special operations are in addition to the Downtown Services Unit, which includes the uniformed police and public safety service officers that patrol our Downtown 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
We are seeing positive impacts. In a review of the Downtown crime statistics over the last 3 weekends, the SMPD’s focused deployment activities have resulted in fewer violent crimes in the Downtown Area (including assaults, aggravated assaults, robberies, and arson), and Part I and Part 2 weekend crimes in the Downtown have decreased by nearly 50%. Overall, crime in our city is lower than pre-pandemic levels.
The special operational unit includes:
- Increased Safety Measures: Two additional sworn officers and two public safety officers assigned to the Downtown seven days a week. Additionally, officers have been assigned to quality-of-life issues at the bus stops in the downtown area.
- New Technologies: A new drone program and increased mobile closed-circuit video have been added and are force multipliers in our ability to address crime.
- Overnight Security: Public safety officers continue to perform overnight checks of the parking structures in partnership with private, contracted security officers.
- Neighborhood Resource Officers: SMPD assigned a Neighborhood Resource Officer to a satellite office on the 1300 block of the Promenade to increase visibility, speed, and coverage and provide more direct interaction and coordination with business owners. The mobile command unit has also been deployed on key weekends for added presence.
- Public Safety and Homelessness: The Downtown Neighborhood Resource Officer works with the Police Department’s HLP Team and LA County’s Department of Mental Health clinician to connect unhoused individuals in the downtown area to services and shelter.
SMPD continues to proactively partner with our resident and business community and private security to address public safety throughout our city. SMPD has responded to 67,000 calls for service so far this year, Officers are more visible, and we’re continuing to monitor crime trends in real-time. SMPD has also made progress recruiting new officers including 18 new hires since January 2022. For a full update from the Chief of Police Ramon Batista regarding the enhanced deployment in the Downtown, visit santamonica.gov/departments/police.
We know there are also questions regarding the prosecution of crimes, and we want you to know that crimes are being prosecuted in Santa Monica. The City Attorney’s Office Criminal Prosecution Division (CAO) is the sole agency that has the authority to prosecute misdemeanor offenses in Santa Monica, unlike many other local cities including Beverly Hills, El Segundo, and Culver City that do not have this invaluable resource. The CAO prosecutes violations of the California Penal, Vehicle, and Health and Safety Codes, as well as the Santa Monica Municipal Code. These crimes include trespassing, vandalism, theft, camping in public, being in the park after dark, loitering in a parking structure, laying in doorways, urinating in public, and more serious offenses.
In 2022, in response to the Police Department’s stepped-up effort, the CAO has seen a steep increase in case submissions city-wide. In the first 6 months of 2022, the CAO received 1,359 police reports, including 234 reports for in-custody defendants. Of the reports received, the CAO filed 1,020 cases, or 75% of all submissions. The City Attorney’s Office does not decline prosecution due to workload or because of a policy belief that certain types of cases should not be prosecuted. Rather, the mission of the City Attorney’s Office is to prosecute the laws of the State and City in an ethical, transparent, equitable, and diligent manner. The City Attorney’s Office collaborates and works closely with the Police Department and the local business community throughout the process. For example, when a stay-away order is ordered by the Court the City Attorney’s Office will proactively coordinate and communicate with public safety and local businesses throughout the process. For more information, visit santamonica.gov/departments/city-attorneys-office.
The City’s Promenade Maintenance and Parking Operations Divisions combined with efforts by private businesses and Downtown Santa Monica Ambassadors work to provide extensive maintenance, sanitization, and custodial services daily.
- Sanitization Services: Trash removal occurs four times a day and staff service 200 trash cans throughout the district.
- Custodial Services: A dedicated crew of 20 staff cover 2-3 million square feet daily to ensure the cleanliness and sanitization of streets, public restrooms, sidewalks and streets, forestry, and Promenade amenities.
- Parking Services: Downtown Santa Monica’s 12 public parking structures and three surface lots are monitored 24/7 by staff who routinely walk through and inspect each facility, including elevators, multiple times over a 24-hour period.
Our comprehensive, city-wide approach to addressing homelessness focuses on both immediate public health and quality-of-life issues and longer-term strategies like expanded permanent housing and the development of a future behavioral health center. The City has strategically invested in several interventions to deliver help right where people need it. These interventions include three City-funded, full-time multidisciplinary teams that go beyond traditional outreach to provide medical and behavioral health care, while also connecting people to longer-term housing and supportive services. Multidisciplinary teams are staffed by licensed mental health professionals, housing case managers, substance-use specialists, licensed medical providers, psychiatrists, and peers with lived experience. In 2022, the three City-funded multidisciplinary teams made more than 10,500 contacts with people experiencing homelessness and provided direct medical or psychiatric services to 651 participants, placed 32 people into interim housing, and placed 17 individuals into permanent housing. For a comprehensive look at our work to address homelessness, visit santamonica.gov/progress-in-addressing-homelessness.
City Council and staff continue to collaborate with local businesses, property owners, contractors, and community partners to maintain public safety, improve quality of life for our residents, workers, and visitors, and address emerging needs. As new funding resources are identified, we will consider new strategies. Thank you to the entire community for joining us in our continued focus to make Downtown Santa Monica a safe and inviting place for all to enjoy.
Chief of Police
Public Works Director
Community Services Director
Acting Transportation Director
Chief of Police