UPDATE: Santa Maria passes restrictions for parking structures i - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

UPDATE: Santa Maria passes restrictions for parking structures in effort to prevent crime

Posted: Updated:

UPDATE (9:15 p.m.): City spokesman Mark van de Kamp says the city council passed the ordinance Tuesday night.

ORIGINAL STORY - An increase in crime has been reported lately in Santa Maria’s city-owned parking structures.

The three parking structures are located downtown, adjacent to the mall and the library. They are free of charge and open for anyone to use.

However, city rangers say they’ve become a target for criminals and they're hoping to establish new rules for the structures.

“I know break-ins have been happening quite too often,” said June Mendoza, who parked her car by the mall on Tuesday.

“I’ve heard people break into cars and it means, I guess, the people hanging around here aren’t necessarily up to any good,” added Arun Madahar, Santa Maria resident.

City Ranger Casey Stone says there’s an overwhelming amount of illegal activity occurring in these parking garages, such as smoking and drinking in public, theft, littering, graffiti, burglary, and even reckless driving and street racing.

“We’ve had a lot of people approach us as they are walking to the mall and complain about people that are doing things that make them feel uncomfortable,” said Stone, Senior Park Services Officer.

Because the structures are open to the public, rangers can’t just ask someone to leave because they simply appear to be up to no good. 

Stone says his department is proposing the city council adopt an ordinance with new restrictions for all three city-owned parking structures. The rules would allow law enforcement to remove anyone who may seem suspicious or is not there to use the structure for its intended purpose.

“The idea is, by preventing people from doing that to begin with, people will feel safer and it will be a cleaner environment for people who are here for those purposes,” Stone said.

If the ordinance is approved by the city council, signs will go up stating the new rules. Parking restrictions will also be added to those signs.

The three city-owned parking structures, Town Center East South Structure, Town Center East North Structure and the City Hall/Library Structure, are patrolled on a daily basis by park rangers and the police department and will continue to be monitored.

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