District, sheriff seek fixes to crime at dam park
by Joe Shreve
Mar 21, 2013 | 3624 views | 26 26 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A broken bottle and some garbage is a sampling of what is found at Barbara Day Park, under the bridge.
A broken bottle and some garbage is a sampling of what is found at Barbara Day Park, under the bridge.
Garbage and graffiti under the bridge at Barbara Day Park in Boulder Creek.
Garbage and graffiti under the bridge at Barbara Day Park in Boulder Creek.

Life in the Santa Cruz Mountains, surrounded by natural beauty, can also mean you’re never sure someone or something isn’t prowling around your property at night: Is that noise a deer or a raccoon looking for a snack? Or could it be someone stealing the wheels off your car while flying high on methamphetamine?

That’s the scenario a number of Boulder Creek residents described during a March 13 meeting with parks and sheriff’s officials, and it’s the motivation behind the creation of a virtual neighborhood watch for the crime-ridden area around a local dam.


‘Something’s got to change’

Neighbors met with Sgt. John Habermehl of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and representatives of Boulder Creek Recreation and Parks District on March 13 at the rec hall office.

Several described Barbara Day Park — the dam park at Middleton and Fairview avenues — as a place where people are regularly drunk or high, party at all hours of the night and trespass onto private property. They said dogs are often allowed off their leashes, trash accumulates and broken glass and discarded hypodermic needles are common hazards.

The problem is not new, the residents said, but it escalated about a month ago when a community member asked a group of teenage boys to leave late one night and was assaulted, resulting in injuries that needed stitches.

Val Hollen, who has lived near the park for 17 years, said trespassers after dark cause the most serious problems. The park has no floodlights, nor any electrical wiring.

“You can hear it,” she said, describing noise made by trespassers. “It’s certainly week after week.”

Several residents blamed a sparse police presence and a lack of consequences imposed on those who violate park rules.

“Something’s got to change here,” Hollen said, while acknowledging that “it’s a little rural town and we’re at the end of the road.”


‘If I don’t know the problem exists, I can’t send my deputies there’

At the meeting, Habermehl introduced an online program called Pro Boards, which allows the residents to participate in an online Neighborhood Watch program and document suspicious trends and activities on a secure webpage shared with the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office can schedule its coverage more efficiently, he said, if residents establish a record of incidents — sightings of a suspicious vehicle, for example, or a series of opened mailboxes in a certain area.

He described the process as “directed enforcement.”

“It’s putting the communication lines back out there so we can communicate regularly,” Habermehl said. “If I don’t know the problem exists, I can’t send my deputies there.”

Reports from traditional watches often arrive sporadically or long after the fact, he said. A website allows for consistent, timely reporting — if people participate.

“It’s just a matter of getting all the neighbors logged on,” Habermehl said. “The more people use it, the more effective it can be. It’s just a shell if people don’t communicate.”

He cautioned that posting on the site is not the same as reporting a crime, and a resident who sees a crime in progress should immediately call it in.

“It’s not so much for reporting of specific crimes,” Habermehl said. “It’s more along the lines of communicating trends or activities that they’ve been noticing.”


‘It pushes the harmful people out’

As sheriff’s officials work to improve their enforcement in troubled areas, leaders of the recreation and parks district are trying to change the areas themselves.

Barbara Day Park, one of a handful of parks in Boulder Creek operated by the town’s recreation and parks district, is being overhauled, according to Brian Valdivia, a member of the district board.

Valdivia hopes the renovation promotes greater use of the park by families and events.

“We’re really putting a lot of energy and time into (upgrading Barbara Day Park),” he said. “If you have more positive activities, the more it pushes the harmful people out.”

“Harmful people” are nothing new to Barbara Day Park, according to Hallie Greene, district manager.

“This has been certainly ongoing for years and years,” Greene said. “The main complaint we get is the drinking, the smoking and the dogs.”

During a community meeting in September 2007, the Press-Banner reported that residents called attention to regular drug dealing, fights and other criminal activity at the park.

The Press-Banner reported at the time that sheriff’s office officials speculated that troublemakers had migrated to Barbara Day Park in response to increased security at Junction Park.

A surveillance camera system was installed in Junction Park following a March 2011 assault on a recreation department janitor.

Greene said enforcement of the rules was easier there than at Barbara Day Park, partially because Junction Park, at Middleton and Railroad avenues, is visible from the district office, 13333 Middleton Ave.

She said the problems at Junction Park also decreased because more people started using the park as the district tried to make it welcoming to families — just as the district is doing at Barbara Day Park.

“I’d say families utilize Junction Park more than Barbara Day Park,” Greene said. “People don’t want to be loitering where (other) people have their kids.”

She said the district has committed $15,000 to build a fence and install new signs at the park. The district is also considering solar options as a solution to the lack of electricity for lighting at the park.

Greene said the community’s communication with law enforcement is critical to combat illegal activities, as recreation staff members are prohibited from approaching lawbreakers due to the risk of harm.

“It’s really important to call the sheriff,” Greene said. “People are going to get cited if they’re doing illegal activities down there.”

Valdivia said gathering input from neighbors is the key to determining how the district should move forward with promoting safety at the park.

“The more community response we get, the better,” he said.

For more information about the online neighborhood watch program, visit http://bouldercreekdam.freeforums.net.

To comment, email reporter Joe Shreve at joe@pressbanner.com, call 438-2500 or post a comment at www.pressbanner.com.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
June 29, 2013
You can thank mark stone for 8 years he did nothing but pad his wallet and pad the wallet of the valley women's club so he could continue to be elected he created this mess and now has moved on thank god we did not listen to the political progressive hacks that are the valley women's club and vot for eric I can not tell the truth hammer
Clark Carter
April 08, 2013
Do we pay taxes for deputies here? Is that a serious question? Of course we pay for deputies here. We pay for dozens of deputies here but we only get 2.
Bonnie Moore
April 08, 2013
Over in another discussion there were these comments:

Someone said this:

We need to clean up San Lorenzo Valley!

When we give free food and DO NOT DRUG TEST we bring the very people we do not want to the valley...Welfare will soon require this, so why doesnt Valley Churches?

The someone said this:

Sadly, Valley churches keeps the losers and abusers in this valley...plain and simple. They get a free ride with them.

Then I said this:

It's not just Valley Churches, it's Mountain Community Resources as well.

But, consider this. It's better to give free food than to give cash or grocery cards because those will be used primarily for drugs and alcohol.

How about these possibilities?

Freeloaders should work for their handout.

They should clean up their mess.

Drunk in public means they are taken to jail.

It's really time to deal with this problem. If you stop to think about it, it's plain criminal that our elected officials and public safety departments are not addressing these issues for the valley.

April 08, 2013
I agree!!!! So what can we community members do about this? Any ideas?? It is clear our elected officials could care less...I am tired of living in this dump of a town, lived here for many years but it sure has changed.....it is getting worse.. attracts all the freeloaders. Turning in to a dump...Very sad....it used to be so wonderful here. Things have to change......
A Christian
April 05, 2013
Do we pay taxes for deputies here?

I understand we only have two.

SLV needs more patrols!!

How much more crime do we need before we get help?

This is a serious issue.

We need answers and actions now.
BC Resident
April 05, 2013

Anyone with their eyes half open can see the mess in Boulder Creek... sure would be nice if police would spend more time here. We'd love for our kids to have a decent and safe place to grow up.

April 07, 2013
Sadly, our sheriffs can't even find a dead body.....we need more reliable police in this area.....it is really pathetic around here!!!!!!
Roger Resident
April 05, 2013
OK, then back to square 1.

37 deputies please.
bc res
June 28, 2013
37 deputies/ You guys are all over reacting. Is this a warzone? How much would that cost in tax dollar? impossible.
June 29, 2013
If you compare the allocation of public safety officers to other areas of the county, a commensurate number for the San Lorenzo Valley would be 37.

That number might seem like a "warzone" to you because here in the San Lorenzo Valley you are used to seeing 2, or less, at any given time.

And also, given the amount of crime - burglary, assault, meth labs, public inebriation, vandalism, etc - yes, a larger body of support is requisite.
The Duke
April 03, 2013
Put a few of the San Lorenzo Valley firefighters through a police academy and allow them to help out with some of the crime. Other counties have what is called public service (firefighter/police combo)
Zaphyr Polettino
April 04, 2013
The city of Sunnyvale does this:


But the fact remains that the sheriff's department has more than enough money and deputies to adequately serve the San Lorenzo Valley.

I respectfully ask Sheriff Phil Wowak how quickly he plans on correcting the imbalance.
April 04, 2013
There are no full time paid firefighters in SLV except the fire chiefs. Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond, Felton, and Zayante are all volunteer departments. This means they come from home or work or wherever when the pagers go off. They are, for the most part, not waiting at the stations for the next call. Your plan is not workable.

Further, most firefighters don't want to be cops. Most cops don't want to be firefighters. Most paramedics don't want to be either. The Sunnyvale setup, "Public Safety" is not common.
Andrea Andrea
April 03, 2013
The County of Santa Cruz reports 165 deputies serving a population of 135,000. That’s 1 deputy for every 818 citizens in the unincorporated areas of the County. Using those figures the San Lorenzo Valley should see 37 deputies patrolling, investigating crime, arresting bad guys and protecting its residents from physical harm and property theft. Right?

Do you know how many deputies at any given time are providing public safety services in the communities of Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond, Brookdale, Felton, Mount Hermon, and Zayante which have a combined population of 30,000?


Tired of it in BC
April 03, 2013
That's an interesting way to look at it. Thanks for the research.

It's funny ... with McPherson's election all of this renewed hoopla around a "town plan" . . . Hey.. I have a "plan" that will help Boulder Creek and the community... Make it so a family can walk around and feel safe, allow our hard working citizens to enjoy our parks without fear of running in to a meth head, drunk, dealer or criminal. Then, guaranteed, BC businesses will see more traffic and do better.

How about that for a "town plan"?

Boulder Creek needs a full time town sheriff. The 'scum' own the town and it's got to change.
Ken B
April 03, 2013
You've hit the nail on the head. It's a luxury to be able to ponder a town plan with nice lighting, benches, and happy tourists. But until we deal with the criminals, it's all for naught.

The question must be asked. Why does Sheriff Phil Wowak see fit to only offer 2 deputies in the San Lorenzo Valley?
LC in BC
April 03, 2013
The towns need deputies on the ground, walking the streets. Every day and night.

Law enforcement is invisible in the San Lorenzo Valley which is why there is so much crime.

The criminals aren't worried.
April 04, 2013
And those two deputies are always together. When we see one sheriff car, we make a game of seeing how long it is before the second one comes along. Usually one is right behind the other.

April 05, 2013
365.25 days/year * 24 hours/day = 8766 hours/year

40 hours/week/shift * (52 weeks/year - 4 weeks/year of vacation) = 1440 hours/shift/year

8766 hours/year / 1440 hours/shift/year = 6.0875 shifts

So 2 deputies 24-7 translates into 12 deputies on staff. Multiply that by (135,000/30,000) to get 54 deputies on patrol in the unincorporated area. Then there are chiefs who don't patrol, bailiffs in every courtroom, and deputies 24-7 in each jail.

April 05, 2013

40 hours/week/shift * (52 weeks/year - 4 weeks/year of vacation) = 1920 hours/shift/year

8766 hours/year / 1920 hours/shift/year = 4.565625 shifts

So 2 deputies 24-7 translates into about 9 deputies on staff. Multiply that by (135,000/30,000) to get 41 deputies on patrol in the unincorporated area.

Going to bed now...

yeti again
April 03, 2013
As long as the Sheriff's office is understaffed, the SLV will continue to suffer. The robberies in Ben Lomond of late are another example of criminal activity going unchecked due to Phil Wowak's ignorance of our needs. There are so many illegal activities going on behind the scenes... so many homeless that go unnoticed as well. The fire in Boulder Creek is an indication of that as well. Something must be done... counting on our elected officials to figure it out for us us not the answer.... in some cases the sheriff is powerless even with witnesses when the county will not it cannot prosecute...
Tired of it in BC
April 07, 2013
I think 95% of Boulder Creek residents would stand up and applause this....

We need to squash the growing and increasingly aggressive criminal element that diminishes the quality of life for Boulder Creek residents and families. This has gone WAY too far.

christian kropp
March 27, 2013
I am the janitor who was assaulted at junction and i would say to the people of boulder creek what the police told me after i called to check up on the guy i and and another person 100% i.d . "Take some self defence classes ,we are busy ,we cant show up everytime you call when you see theguy who jumped you" even though the guy was well known for many such incidents.up to today nothing has been done about the assault,thats b.s.you cant count on the cops sad but true .i never call the cops for that reason .take care of things yourself .stay out of the parks after dark ,or carry a weapon.
Brandon Dune
March 28, 2013
Sadly, Christian's story reflects the state of law enforcement in the San Lorenzo Valley. They are understaffed. Only 2 deputies at any given time for a valley with population close to 30,000. They don't respond to most calls. Investigations collect dust. Detectives ignore you if you go in to file a complaint or report a recent crime. For a community our size we should see a full size department.
Cindy V
April 02, 2013
What happen to this system? Did tax payers for it?


NEWS - Santa Cruz Sheriffs, CA

1/14/2009 - Santa Cruz Joins EIS

The Santa Cruz County Sheriffs Office, California (SCSO), contracts EIS to provide integrated Law Records Management, CLETS and Field reporting solution.

"With EIS's field reporting system, officers can enter and access case reports and manage citations while in their vehicles. This integrated mobile solution increases the speed and accuracy of information and allows officers to spend more time in the community."
April 03, 2013
There's magic in the number 2 of deputies. They're parked, talking to each other about the Giants game.

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