Solvang to pay more for law enforcement after negotiating contract with Sheriff’s Office | Local News

Bizar Male

July 26th City Council Meeting

The negotiated rate provides a 19.4% increase to $2.1 million for fiscal year 2021-22, down from the county’s requested 37% increase.

City Manager Xenia Bradford said the city, which has always contracted with the county for law enforcement services, paid $1.8 million in 2020-21 for 24-hour, year-round coverage with one deputy serving on each shift.

“It’s still significantly larger than anything we’ve ever experienced,” Bradford said.

When the county initially requested $2.5 million in the final year of its five-year contract with Solvang and similar increases of its other contracting cities — Goleta, Buellton and Carpinteria — the cities joined forces.

Through dispute resolution, the cities reached a tentative agreement. They also found “a number of issues with the overall model with how the costs are calculated, and there’s really little control and lots of surprises the model can produce. We consider it to be arbitrary to some extent,” Bradford said.

The cities will revisit the contract language in the coming year as they consider law enforcement options for the next contract period.

The 4-0 vote, with Mayor Charlie Uhrig recusing himself, came immediately on the heels of a report by Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Green, who serves as Solvang police chief.

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Green said crime rates in Solvang have been on the rise in 2020 and directly attributed that to a return to normalcy post-COVID. With more people visiting and exploring Solvang, normal crime statistics are returning to some extent.

In 2020, property crimes dropped 7% in Solvang and violent crimes dropped 36%.

“That makes sense because obviously during the shutdown we didn’t have as much of a populace to be there visiting and the hotels were closed and tourism was down, so that kind of makes sense,” Green said.

Halfway through 2021, aside from calls for service, law enforcement has responded to 11 assaults, one burglary, two commercial burglaries, and three additional burglaries associated with vehicles. There have been 37 thefts reported so far this year, up from 22 for all of last year, vehicle thefts are down and mail theft is “really hot lately,” Green said.

Green credited some of that increase to Emergency Rule 4, the zero-bail order.

“As we catch some of these people, we can only keep them in custody four to six hours before they get out, so it makes sense that some of our property crimes, our assaults, our burglary crimes are going up,” Green said.

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Deputies have also increased traffic enforcement on targeted areas at the request of the city.

“You receive a lot of complaints about what is perceived to be a lack of enforcement,” Green said.

The department has issued 48 citations this year, 22 of which were issued last week on the Chalk Hill Road/Viborg Road corridor, with most of those going to locals.

Green added he believed this type of enforcement has also resulted in the city’s crash rate trending lower for the year.

DUI arrests are up this year at 9 compared with 4 in 2020, but down from pre-COVID-closure 2019, when there were 16 such arrests.

Overall, Green said, there have been 18 felonies in Solvang this year, the same number as last, while misdemeanors have increased slightly.

“That makes sense because you’ve got these people that are stealing stuff and we’re actually catching a bunch of them, but we’re not able to keep them in jail, so they kind of get out and repeat, some of them,” Green said.

Solvang man arrested after replica handgun brandished near Santa Ines Mission

In other action, council members unanimously:

— approved a $47,200 contract with Santa Barbara County Animal Services for extensive animal services from licensing, impounding, dead animal pickup and disposal, to disaster evacuation as well as permit services for animal-related businesses in the city;

— approved a $30,000 budget amendment for demographic services related to transitioning to election by district by the 2022 election;

— approved the second reading of an ordinance establishing the Tourism Advisory Committee;

— granted $5,000 to Santa Ynez Therapeutic Riding Program; and

— appointed Councilman Robert Clarke to the Santa Barbara County Library Advisory Committee.

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