Andrew Mills - Chief of Police - Santa Cruz

Over the past week, some community members called to ask why people did not go to jail for their Trader Joes’ stunt. They refer to a video where members of a group protesting wearing a mask descended on the private store not wearing a mask, took items, and left money on the counter. This group, led by an individual from San Jose, has done similar events all over our county. SCPD and our law enforcement partners have arrested him multiple times. I will not give him credit or acknowledgment here.

Forcing their way into the Trader Joe’s was selfish, arrogant, ignorant, and illegal. Apparently, they don’t believe in science. Ignoring science is their prerogative. Speaking out against the government, their right. We cannot and will not accept this group violating the law intentionally while putting other community members’ health at risk.

Santa Cruz police officers are instructed to issue citations to those protesting in stores for trespassing. The person in control of the store must be willing to sign the complaint. Officers will also give a citation for not wearing a mask. Failure to wear a mask can be a violation of the public health order and municipal code. There are a few exemptions to the law.

Trespassing is a citizen’s arrest. SCPD will gladly take custody of the offender and process them for the offense. Trespassers are normally cited and released. If the violation continues, officers can book them into jail. Be aware, holding them in jail is unlikely. It is difficult to get most criminals into jail due to a massive re-alignment of the jails, prisons, and COVID.  You should know it is also unlikely suspects will be prosecuted, as the Courts are backed up with serious and violent felony cases. We have written hundreds of citations to people not sheltering in place since the pandemic began. Few, if any, have been prosecuted.

Suggestions: Each business should immediately contact corporate counsel and agree on the extent they are willing to go in order to arrest for trespassing.  It may seem obvious, but it’s not. Many corporations won’t allow their employees to make arrests such as this. Trying to get a hold of corporate lawyers on the spot or on weekends to obtain permission is futile. Make the decision ahead of time, so when officers arrive, decisions can be made before the suspects leave. In our experience, a corporation will rarely allow their employees to take that kind of legal jeopardy.

Call the police when a group of people without masks are amassing for one of their invasions. Officers will take action.

Be willing to sign a complaint if you are the victim of a crime, and we will assume control of the arrest for you. For example, a person trying to hug you against your will is a battery if they touch you. It’s a crime, and you will have to sign that complaint. Be careful not to respond violently. You can hear in the video the person filming saying, don’t touch me, that’s an assault. You have the right to defend yourself, but it’s better to get our officers there to defuse the problem and make an arrest.

Listen, the finish line is in sight. If we stay the course, we can put an end to this pandemic-laden chapter of our lives. To finish the race strong, we need to quit listening to Q-ackery, believe the science of community spread, get vaccinated, and wear a damn mask.  

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