Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Sep 05th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Wake-up Call

news_crimeCommunity addresses recent crimes, struggles to cope

On the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 21, Santa Cruz Police Department officers addressed a packed auditorium at Santa Cruz High School. The meeting, filled mainly with Santa Cruz High parents and their children, was intended to educate the public about gangs in the wake of the death of Tyler Tenorio, 16, who was stabbed on Oct. 16 on Laurel Street near Chestnut Street, during an apparent argument between the boy and his friends and a group of gang members. On Oct. 19, Daniel Onesto, 19, was taken into custody and charged with murder, gang enhancement, and assault with a deadly weapon; police have also issued an arrest warrant for Paulo Luna, 23, and are seeking one for a third man, whose name was not publicly available at the time of print. The incident followed the rape and beating of a 69-year-old woman in her home on the Westside the Wednesday before. The last two months have also seen four reports of sexual battery in the downtown area. All of these sexual assault cases remain unsolved.

This cluster of violent acts has drawn heavy publicity and revived a perennial debate about safety in the city. Law enforcement and city leaders are struggling to quell fears that Santa Cruz as a whole, and the downtown area specifically, has become unsafe and that gang violence here is spiraling out of control. Parents at the forum expressed frustration that the city isn’t doing more to prevent gang activity and asked how they can help their children avoid conflicts with gang members; others, like local mother Lisa Castellanos, also articulated fears that Latino youths like her two teenage sons will be targets of racial profiling.


“You don’t want to believe these types of things could happen in Santa Cruz. But these are relatively uncommon types of cases.
That’s why you get such a large response.” —Zach Friend, SCPD spokesperson

Police spokesman Zach Friend says that despite these incidents, Santa Cruz is “a relatively peaceful community,” with crime statistics consistently trending downwards—a claim borne from actual offense numbers available on the Santa Cruz Police Department website, which show that overall crime has steadily dropped between 2003 and 2009, though this year has seen a slight rise in both theft and sexual assault.

Kristie Clemens, director of Domestic Violence Services at Walnut Avenue Women’s Center, has a theory about that rise: “Theft—the economy is bad and people feel out of control and are desperate,” she says. “And sexual violence—rape—isn’t about one’s expression of sexuality. It’s about control and power and dominating another person. And when some people feel out of control in their lives, they seek to dominate others to reassert their power.”

Friend says the community’s outrage at these attacks is understandable. “You have a young kid murdered by gang members and a 69-year-old woman savagely attacked in her own home,” he says. “Who wouldn’t react with anger, frustration, disbelief, and sorrow? You don’t want to believe these types of things could happen in Santa Cruz. But these are relatively uncommon types of cases. That’s why you get such a large response.”

However, he adds that even though there has been a statistical drop in crime, there is a very real perception that it has been increasing.  “Perception becomes reality for people,” he says. “It’s just as important for us to address perception issues as to address actual increases.”

Nane Alejandrez, executive director of anti-gang violence organization Barrios Unidos, worries that the debate following Tenorio’s death will be another wasted opportunity to effect real change. “This is not the first time this has happened,” he says. “And we keep putting our heads in the sand and not dealing with the real issues that are affecting our community.”

While he also doesn’t believe Santa Cruz is becoming less safe overall, he says that a lack of effective drug treatment programs and rehabilitative efforts for people getting out of prison creates a cycle of violence. He also says that law enforcement has long placed an emphasis on suppression rather than prevention, which doesn’t address the root causes of gang violence: poverty, drug addiction, and a lack of opportunities and education for underprivileged youth. But he tries to remain optimistic. “I’m always hopeful,” he says. “I wouldn’t be doing this work if I didn’t believe.”

Meanwhile, Santa Cruz locals like Veronica Garrett, 35, who lives and works near downtown, struggle with how to interpret these recent events. “I feel frustrated,” Garrett says. “And I feel much more in danger. This feels like an intrusion. It doesn’t feel like an organic part of Santa Cruz. This is my home. I love it here and I want it to be safe. But I just don’t know how to change the rest of humanity.”

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

You Are What You Post

Online personality algorithms put astrological profiles to shame, but UCSC psychologists are raising questions about sharing personal data

 

Venus Direct, Mercury Retro Soon, Honoring Our Labors

As Burning Man (nine days, Aug. 30-Sept. 7 in the sign of Virgo) burns in the hot white desert sands, a petal of the rose created by retrograde Venus and the twelve-petaled Sun in Virgo’s petals unfold. All of us are on the burning ground (Leo) in the womb (cave of the heart) of the mother (Virgo), gestating for humanity once again (each year) a new state of consciousness. Both Virgo and Cancer, feminine (receptive energies) signs, are from our last solar system (Pleiades). When humanity first appeared on Earth we were nurtured by the mother, a matriarchy of energies (on islands in the Pacific). Eve, Isis and Mary are part of the lineages of our ancient Mother. Overseen by the Pleiades, the Earth (matter, mater, the mother) in that last solar system was imbued with intelligence (Ray 3). As we move toward autumn, another mother, Ceres realizes she has mere weeks left with her beloved daughter, Persephone. Persimmon and pomegranate trees prepare for autumn, their colors signs of hope as the light each day continues to dim. Sunday, Venus in Leo turns stationary direct, yet continues in her shadow until Oct. 9 (when retrograde Mercury turns direct). Slowly our newly assessed values emerge from the Venus retrograde. We thought in Venus retro how to use our resources more effectively. Mercury retrogrades Sept. 17. Monday is Labor Day. Let us honor the labor of everyone, all life a “labor.” Let us honor Labor Day and all those who have “served” (labored for) us this past year. We honor their labors. We honor the labor of our parents, those who have loved us. We honor our own labors, too. We are all in service, we are all laboring. We are all valuable.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 4

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sushi Garden

Local sushi empire expands to Scotts Valley

 

Do you overshare online?

I don’t think so. I just post things about my life, like successful things. Sometimes I just like sharing different news that I find interesting, or favorite artists, clothes, music. I like to post photos. Natalia Delgado, Santa Cruz, Server

 

McIntyre Vineyards

I recently met up with three friends for dinner at Sanderlings at Seascape Beach Resort. We chose to eat outside so we could watch the sun set over the ocean, but the Aptos fog rolled in and swallowed it up.

 

Sustainable Supper

The Homeless Garden Project’s Sustain Supper series supports its award-winning programs