Monday, August 4, 2008

Police have little trouble with Fiesta crowds


Despite thousands of revelers pouring into the streets of Santa Barbara during the past five days to partake in Fiesta festivities, law enforcement officials said the weeklong celebration remained relatively low-key on their end.
“It’s probably the quietest one I’ve seen in 20 years,” said Sgt. Mike McGrew of the Santa Barbara Police Department.

The only incident of note occurred when a suspect decked someone else with a chair on State Street, he said, adding that he had his fingers crossed that the trend would continue through Sunday evening.
“To come from having worked a block one Fiesta where I had seven stabbings in half an hour to this is pretty great,” he said.
Authorities credited help from outside law enforcement agencies as well as a proactive approach by local gang officers to maintaining a peaceful atmosphere.
More than 125 local police officers joined approximately 50 officers from other areas to patrol the streets during the annual event. Sgt. Aaron Baker, who heads the Special Enforcement Team of the Santa Barbara Police Department, said their efforts paid off.
“It was incredibly mellow,” he said. “We had very few incidents.”
He said the regular caseload of public intoxication and disturbing the peace arrests appeared on par with a normal weekend.
“It was really peaceful,” Sgt. Baker said. “I was very pleased.”
Arrest statistics for the entire Old Spanish Days celebration were not available on Sunday, he said, but will likely be released today.
Mayor Marty Blum said she kept a close eye on criminal activity during the past five days and commended authorities for keeping things quiet.
“It just seemed very calm,” she said. “…There was a good family feeling downtown, which we don’t always get with Fiesta.”
Dozens of gang officers patrolled the streets during the evening hours, Sgt. McGrew said, ensuring any gang-related activity was kept at a minimum.
“There were little groups that showed up, but once they showed up, we were on them,” he said. “…They couldn’t move without us being right on them.”
Sgt. McGrew said officers did confiscate weapons, including knives, from some suspected gang members, but no stabbing incidents were reported.
By working with bar owners and managers, and keeping an eye on the crowds of partygoers, he said authorities ensured the downtown area remained safe.
“It’s a completely different scene than a few years ago,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of out-of-town gang members either, which used to be the trend.”
With a wave of police, probation and parole officers from agencies as far away as Santa Maria and Santa Paula on the scene, he said gang members and criminals likely decided to lay low.
With plenty of law enforcement officers out in force, Mayor Blum said the crowds of local residents and tourists were able to celebrate the theme of this year’s Fiesta in true spirit.
“I think people really enjoyed this year’s Fiesta,” she said. “It was ‘Viva la Communidad’ this year and we had a great community atmosphere.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great job to all those involved in keeping this Fiestas under control!! I was also very surprised and happy to see no gang activity this fiestas!