An armed robbery at the Food Bin on the night of Feb. 13 is the most recent incident in a string of violent crimes in Santa Cruz. According to an email sent out by the UC Santa Cruz Police Department, two masked men, one carrying a knife and the other a shotgun, burst into the natural foods store around 7:30 p.m. The men demanded everyone get down and proceeded to take an undisclosed amount of cash from the register. One woman was kicked in the face as she attempted to catch a glimpse of the perpetrators, but was treated and released at the scene. No one was seriously injured during the incident and the identities of the perpetrators are still unknown.
The robbery comes just days after a UCSC student was shot in the course of a mugging near Natural Bridges beach and a local man was killed in a drive-by in front the Red Room in downtown Santa Cruz. Also, early in the morning on Wednesday, Feb 20, a Santa Cruz home was broken into and the Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD) arrived at the scene to find that the victims had scared off their attackers and captured one of them, who was then turned over to the police.
Steve Clark, deputy police chief of SCPD, said this recent crime pattern was concerning, but ultimately nothing to cause panic.
“Certainly it can be said that we’ve had a spike in violent crime, and we’ve had similar spikes in the past,” Clark said. “Anytime we see that, we try to look at a root cause analysis, which helps us in terms of not only solving the case, but mitigating future crime.”
Clark said the SCPD is “putting their best analysis hats on” to develop strategies to mitigate, disrupt and address the recent crime spike.
“There’s a lot that goes into our crime analysis that isn’t readily apparent to everyone in the community — there’s a lot of information out there that we have our fingers on the pulse of, that we regularly monitor,” Clark said. “In this particular case, we think a lot of it is gang motivated.”
Clark said SCPD is now working on further strategies to try and disrupt the ability of gangs to carry out crimes. This includes impairing their communications and ability to house and store weapons.
The SCPD on Wednesday announced several cash rewards totalling $12,500 for information leading to arrests in each of the cases. Clark said SCPD’s investigations remain ongoing but encouraged community engagement with the recent events.
“There needs to be more community conversations about the root causes of what’s going on in Santa Cruz that’s leading to an environment that allows these kinds of things to happen,” Clark said. “Those are conversations that need to focus on gangs, drugs and our attitudes towards these things — you encourage what you tolerate. We need to take that to heart and not allow it to germinate within our community.”