SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Once a a hangout for the homeless, beggers, people with substance problems and a lot of police activity, the Santa Barbara Eastside is seeing significant changes.
Some refer to it as the "Milpas Makeover."
And many who live and shop in the area have noticed.
"This is the safest place I have in, in a long time," said Steve Clampitt a resident who sees no real problems in the area. "I think the only crime I have seen is littering and someone spitting on the sidewalk."
Others have clearly noticed a change for the good and more police patrols.
Resident Linda Campbell said, "I am aware of the fact they are keeping an eye on things. I am seeing them keeping an eye on things.'
On an afternoon check on foot, we noticed an area that would normally have had many transients. It was quiet and clean.
The Santa Barbara Police Beat Officer for the area Adrian Gutierrez was among the officers attending an outreach program known as "Coffee with the Cops" held at a new 7-Eleven store on Milpas. " I think it is a united effort," said Gutierrez. "We also have to respect people's lives. If they choose to be that way, we can just offer help. The community is very giving. They do give them money so they know where to go."
One of the biggest changes in the area, recently, has been a new Community Policing Office on Montecito St. Residents can meet with officers there and, if there is a call for service, the police can take off from that location, right in the neighborhood.
"The business owners have thanked us, for our presence. Our vehicles have kept the loitering out of there," said Gutierrez.
Milpas community and business leaders have organized clean up efforts and parades to restore community pride and safety.
"I think it's really a lot better than it was a year ago, as far as walking down Milpas St. I don't see many of the problems there,' said Bob Pugh who has shopped in the area for years.