Douglas Gillies
Home Attorney Facilitator Author Film Maker Links Contact Blog

News Press banner

Crime Blotter


MONTECITO. Someone shattered the window
of a Toyota Prius on E. Mountain Drive Aug. 16
and stole jewelry, cash and clothing. The owner,
a 51-year old from Santa Barbara, told authorities
she parked the car at the San Ysidro trailhead at
about 1:00 p.m. She returned three hours later to
find the front passenger window shattered and her
belongings gone.

Aw-Shucks Sheriff

What's a Sheriff gonna do about bad guys?

TO: Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, and users of the hiking trails in the county.

PLEASE NOTICE: The Santa Barbara Sheriff has reported that cars parked at the trailheads in the county are broken into "all the time" while hikers are on the trails, and there's really not much the police can do about it. Thieves have taken over the back country.

This condition is unfortunate because most hikers are probably unaware that their cars are such easy targets while they hike the trails, and that anyone with a rock or a hammer can break the car window and take whatever they want with impunity. Glass repair shops see it all the time—cars with windows smashed at the trailheads. If they steal your cell phone and it has GPS, the criminals can easily be located—but the Sheriff won't trace the phone's location because they say they will only contact the cell phone company when it's a matter of life or death—not for something like breaking your window and stealing all your stuff. Apparently hikers should know better than to leave their cars unattended.

surreys party on

Take the case of Laurie Wolf. She parked her Prius at the trailhead of the San Ysidro trail in Montecito on a Sunday afternoon. When she returned three hours later, the passenger window was shattered and everything in the car had been taken - shoes, scraps of note paper, appointment calendar, clothing, and her cell phone. She contacted Verizon and reported the phone stolen. They told her the phone was equipped with GPS and that the thieves had already downloaded hundreds of dollars worth of games on her phone, which they probably would sell to some kid.

Laurie called the Sheriff. Cars are broken into all the time at the trailheads, the Sheriff's office told her. There's not much we can do about it. We can only trace a cell phone through GPS if it's a matter of life or death. Your cell phone provider is the only one who can search GPS. Verizon then told Laurie that only the police can authorize a GPS search. A California Court of Appeal ruled in 2007 that police do not need a search warrant to obtain cell site information.

They didn't dust for prints. They took the report over the phone. There's a camera on the traffic signals on Cathedral Oaks but it's the Wild West a mile up the road at the trailhead, and the Sheriff, aw gee, I guess his hands are tied.

Maybe the Board of Supervisors can help—what a about a camera where the cars park, or a sign that warns hikers to put their stuff out of sight?


I sent a short email in the afternoon with a link to this site to Supervisor Salud Carbajal, whose district includes the San Ysidro trail. He replied later in the afternoon, "Thank you Douglas. This is troubling. I will see what else can be done and also forward this to others as well."

A few minutes later, Suzanne Perkins, a Montecito realtor, commented, "I have asked that we discuss this at our upcoming FCT Multi-Jurisdiction Task Force Hearing this coming Tuesday."

The City of Santa Barbara, County of Santa Barbara, and the Los Padres National Forest share jurisdictional oversight of Santa Barbara's Front Country Trails (FCT). The primary purpose of the Task Force is to develop recommendations which should be considered by the three jurisdictions in order to foster responsible, cohesive and comprehensive management of the Front Country Trails for the greater good of the community. Additionally, the Task Force provides a public forum to solicit and gather input from the public, trails users, property owners, community organizations and interest groups.

Thank you Douglas for helping to make a difference. It is important to help others become aware of problems, to help each other out and work to make things better for all of us. I believe in and appreciate actions that acknowledge and allow us to work as a community, rather than each man for themselves. Being in community and helping each other is what life is all about and how we are empowered to make a difference.
—Laurie Wolf

A month after the break-in, Laurie called. "When I was hiking on Saturday morning, a police car drove by the Cold Springs trailhead. Some hikers flagged the Sheriff down and asked him to please patrol the trailheads because there were break-ins. The Sheriff said that's what he was doing because they were having a lot of problems."

Three days later, a letter to the editor appeared in the Montecito Journal. "After reading too many Sheriff's Blotter items about windows being smashed and items taken from from vehicles parked on streets, at trailheads, and even in time you park, check for items which would be hard to replace and take them with you."

The Editor's note added," We believe some strategically placed hidden cameras is all it would take to identify and apprehend those responsible for these wanton acts of incivility." I'm with Ed. Why should a community permit itself to be held hostage by a handful of jerks who bash in car windows?

Send me an email and I will post your comment.

© 2019 Douglas Gillies. | All Rights Reserved