SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The owner of Wolf's Head Trading Company on the 400 block of State Street in downtown Santa Barbara is speaking up about crime happening right outside his shop entrance.
Cristian Sagastume started documenting the incidents on his cell phone. He captured video of homeless people urinating on benches, getting into fights and drug and alcohol use, all in broad daylight.
He sent the videos to the city council, Police Chief Lori Luhnow, and Mayor Helene Schneider.
Sagastume said he texts, writes letters and sends emails to officials often.
Tourists and locals are staying away from his specialty store, which is a one stop shop for haircuts and clothing, because of what he calls, 'unsafe conditions'.
The city council recently sent him a letter stating that homelessness and crimes are down 24%. You can read the letter here.
Sagastume said he remains optimistic and hopeful because action has been taken since he sent the videos.
Chief Lunhow and Councilmember Jason Dominguez showed up to his store to offer support. The bench in front of Sagastume's store was removed on Thursday.
Sagastume also said he is seeing more police walking the beat.
In what he calls a 'sensitive social issue', Sagastume said he is not targeting the homeless population as a whole.
"We are talking about a small group of people who are literally committing crimes out in the open. You can't put them all in one basket and say they are all doing something wrong," he said.
But, Sagastume said more needs to be done to help him stay in business and to encourage tourists to feel safe enough to come back to lower State Street.
"We don't want this to be a temporary fix," he said. "Something needs to be done permanently."
Sagastume said he and other business owners must be part of the solution. He's looking into starting a business Neighborhood Watch program, which he says the police department supports.
Councilmember Jason Dominguez represents District 1, which covers lower State Street.
He points to a 20 million dollar loss of redevelopment money and a budget shortfall as part of the problem.
Dominguez said the economic downturn is happening around the country, but the council is looking at different ways to combat the problem in the city.
"Business leaders are doing a great job of making their views known," he said. "We are increasing police patrols. So even though it's safe, it's going to feel even safer."
Dominguez said the city council will continue to encourage tourism and locals to 'shop local', while working to find other solutions.
The Santa Barbara Police Department issued the following statement:
The Santa Barbara Police Department is aware of a Facebook video post that has gone viral showing the aftermath of what appears to be a local transient urinating on a four hundred block State Street bench.
We refer you to our earlier statement released on Friday, April 14th in which Chief Lori Luhnow directly addressed problematic vagrancy. Regarding the removal of the bench – this was done by Santa Barbara Downtown Parking, who is the City entity responsible for State Street benches -- for sanitation purposes.
The Santa Barbara Police Department has met with the video taker, a local business owner on State Street. The Department is currently in negotiation to utilize a vacant business space downtown. This endeavor could allow public safety resources to be even closer to our State Street corridor.
While the Santa Barbara Police Department will remain vigilant -- this task and its eventual accomplishments remain in the hands of a city-wide effort.