SANTA BARBARA – The first Coffee With a Cop event was held today in Downtown Santa Barbara, giving police a sense of what’s on the minds of local residents who might normally shy away from officers.At first glance, the corner of State and De la Guerra looked like a crime scene, crawling with cops. But after a double-take and getting within earshot, it was apparent that this was a community think tank of sorts.Ziva Hirsch with Independent Living Resource Center in Santa Barbara, wants to know what happens when an officer stops a driver who’s hearing impaired. “It’s kind of frustrating at first,” Hirsch told KEY News. “The officer tries to figure out if (the driver) speaks Spanish or another language. It’s a learning curve for the deaf person and the cop.”Some were concerned about the number of transients in the downtown corridor, while others vented about heavy traffic near local schools or neighbors growing marijuana.Police organizers say they welcome the conversations, whether someone wants to vent or is looking for a solution to a problem. “We want them to know that we’re here to help,” said Officer Kasi Beutel, who helped organize the event. “Come to us with little problems, big problems. We can help solve it before it becomes a 9-1-1 call.” Beutel plans to hold future Coffee With a Cop events throughout the city, but says after a host of calls from older residents in the La Cumbre area, the next one will likely be held at a coffee shop off Upper State Street.
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