Inmates are now officially being booked into the Santa Barbara County Northern Branch Jail in Santa Maria.
Until now, the jail was in use only by inmates who had been transferred from the main jail in Santa Barbara.
People in Santa Maria may notice a more significant police presence in the region now due to officers no longer needing to drive down to Santa Barbara for bookings.
"That commute to Santa Barbara round trip is 120 miles, a minimum of three to four hours for an officer to go down there,” said Santa Maria Police Chief Mark Schneider. “And then again on the resource side, if you have an inmate that is combative, you send two officers. It is just hard to control and manage when someone may need to get transported."
“It was a daily operation. We have to work around, even with the low staffing no matter what it was during COVID-19, we've had to adapt to the new policies they have over there,” said Santa Maria Police Officer Vincent Spencer.
Spencer says it will mean more officers are out on patrol.
"It keeps officers within the city and keeps them available to be out on the street for high priority emergency calls and overall community service."
“This last Monday is when they actually started allowing us to take inmates over there and drop them off, so it is new to us in that realm," Schneider said.
The change allows officers to stay closer to Santa Maria.
"We're more visible, quicker to respond to calls, and more available officers to assist the community. The more officers that are visible on the street in marked units is the first deterrent to crime itself," Spencer said.
More than 200 inmates weretransferred to the new jail back in January, but the jail officially booked its first inmate Monday.
The chief says he hopes re-bookings go down.
“For anybody who gets incarcerated, with the hope of them not having them return, there may be some things internally that they can take and learn from that would better themselves so they don't have to go back to jail,” Schneider said, adding, "Long-term, i think it is going to be a great benefit to the community."
As of Monday, jail data showed there were 523 inmates in custody at the Santa Barbara Jail and 263 at the jail in Santa Maria.