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Merchants take proactive approach to downtown safety

Published On: Jun 05 2013 06:37:23 PM CDT   Updated On: Jun 05 2013 10:26:05 PM CDT

Police, Downtown Organization had town hall meeting to discuss concerns


The Santa Barbara Downtown Organization and police officers got together Wednesday to discuss law enforcement issues on State Street.

Downtown Organization President Dave Lombardi is looking forward to the summer season.

"We expect a huge influx of tourists coming in, and so we want the merchants to understand and work with the police, have a total community involvement on how we can make the downtown corridor safer," he said.

But one of his biggest concerns is aggressive panhandlers.

"We want to be able to walk up and down State Street without being accosted," he said.

Lombardi joined other Santa Barbara business owners to meet with police where they agreed to be a bigger part of the solution.

"Well, I think a lot of the merchants were encouraged to hear each other say perhaps for the first time, that it's good if a merchant gets actively involved if they're something going on, they don't just wait for the cops. Not that they confront anybody, but they say, 'Hey you know look, this isn't good what you're doing here,'" said City Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss.

It's not just people asking for money that is a concern. On Memorial Day, a young man went to the hospital after a brazen stabbing on State Street.

Most consider it an isolated incident but also another opportunity for merchants to step up.

"If you see something that you think may start to escalate, we need to call the police right away," said Lombardi.

Police will be riding something new as they patrol downtown this year. The Trikke runs on electricity and can go up to 17 mph. They can also legally pull over a car.

It is one more tool to show business owners that everyone needs to be involved to make a difference.

"Just to kind of get everybody in a sense of what to do, so we're all working together as one community," said Lombardi.


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