Santa Cruz group takes over street corner

December 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
In Santa Cruz, on Friday night, there was a grassroots effort to stop crime. A group got together in cyberspace, met, and occupied a street corner in the real world. It's a spot that is a known hangout for drug dealers and gangbangers.

At the corner of Laurel and Pacific, in Santa Cruz, a large group formed. One, that police, really aren't worried about.

"We're positive loitering," said Lynne Starr from Aptos.

They're taking over this corner for one night, as part of the "Take Back Santa Cruz" movement because in the South of Laurel neighborhood criminals usually occupy the spot.

"This is our space, this is our town, this is our street, this is our corner, it's not yours. So you go somewhere and do your criminal activity where else because we're here tonight," said organizer Analicia Cube.

Santa Cruz police consider the corner one of the three highest crime areas in the entire city. In fact, just last month, two people were shot behind a restaurant.

Police have gotten more than 200 911 calls from the Taco Bell, this year alone. In fact, fewer emergency calls come from the bars across the street, but on the corner, the problems range from public intoxication, assault, and drug dealing.

"Actions like this happening repeatedly and constantly are what gives a community a feeling of ownership and that they're on the right track," says Santa Cruz City Councilmember Cynthia Mathews.

The City Council and police back the grassroots effort, which started on the "Take Back Santa Cruz" Facebook page, on Halloween. There are now nearly 2,000 members. Their goal is to make Santa Cruz safe again.

"These people don't know what they're doing," said Graham Scott from Santa Cruz.

There are some who look at the action at this corner and doubt, change will come.

"The drug dealers are not afraid of people smiling, they're afraid of prison and bullets," said Scott. "If they're packing heat, they would make a difference."

Regardless, they're not stopping. "Take Back Santa Cruz" plans to take over other corners in the city.


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