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SLO's "safety enhancement zone" aims to address neighborhood disturbances

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Posted at 5:49 PM, Sep 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-13 22:17:04-04

As summer turns to fall, leaves cover the sidewalk, Cal Poly students return to San Luis Obispo, and the police department implements a safety enhancement zone.

"People coming up and urinating in my parents’ yard... That's why they put up the white picket fence right there so the students would quit crossing there and taking a leak as they're going home or whatever," said Berkeley Blake, a San Luis Obispo resident whose family lives near Cal Poly.

To discourage incidents like Blake described, especially during the start of the school year, the San Luis Obispo Police Department has what's called a safety enhancement zone — a period of time during which fines are doubled for violations including unruly gatherings, open containers, public urination, and noisy parties.

"We use those zones to help impact the party behaviors in neighborhoods," said Christine Wallace, San Luis Obispo Police Department Neighborhood Outreach Manager.

Violations for which fines are doubled are selected based on what San Luis Obispo police see most often in neighborhoods and the downtown area.

"The fine's a double. It's administrative, not criminal, so it's not something that goes on a permanent record," Wallace explained.

But it might permanently injure your wallet.

"Our fine structure for safety enhancement is $700 and $1,000 for a first and second infraction," Wallace said.

Many homes surrounding the campus are rented by students who are unbothered by the commotion.

"The people who are rowdy on the street, like coming down from the dorms to go to the houses, they're not like breaking anything. They don't come by and smash gates and stuff, so it doesn't really affect me," said Sam Sehnert, Cal Poly student and neighbor.

The Blakes try to give students creating excessive noise until 10 p.m. to quiet down.

"Kids are... they still have their parties, but we try to live with them. You know, we don't want to be on them all the time."

Neighbors believe the safety enhancement zones are effective and the data from the police department seems to agree.

"Ninety-percent of those properties and of those students that get violations don't get a second violation," Wallace said.

The safety enhancement zone is city-wide, starting September 13 and ending on September 26.