City changes Code Enforcement mission statement regarding broken windows theory

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on Feb. 26.
Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on Feb. 26. Watson/The Signal

The city of Santa Clarita has changed the language of its Code Enforcement’s mission statement to reflect what officials said is a more accurate reflection of operations by omitting a portion stating that issues are addressed using the broken windows theory.

The change came after Lucy Yoshioka, 19, a Meadows Park resident and UCLA student, raised concern about transparency to city officials nearly two weeks ago via a 16-page report that challenged the basis of the department’s procedures and cited the theory’s criticism of tough policing and harm to communities of color.  

“I was met with the striking discovery that the city of Santa Clarita explicitly cites the (theory) twice as the methodology and logic as to which code enforcement is executed in this city. This revelation is troubling, as the (theory) is antiquated in nature and does not contain a solid basis for policing, or code enforcement, in cities.”

A portion of the original mission statement stated: 

“Studies have shown a marked decline in crimes against property and its inhabitants when properties are properly maintained. By addressing the ‘Broken Windows Theory,’ Code Enforcement staff greatly reduce the negative impact that unmaintained properties have on our community.” 

City Manager Ken Striplin responded to Yoshioka via email, saying that while the city website cited the broken windows theory, “it is merely one source used to inform operations and does not accurately reflect the ‘backbone’ of operations,” adding that “officers are reactive and only address violations observed by neighbors” and work collaboratively rather than punitively.

Striplin expressed appreciation for the student’s “intellectual debate” and shared that the mission statement had been updated. Yoshioka said Thursday she “was pleased to see a person in power respond and make that small change.” 

“Moving forward, I’d like to see more transparency and better training, like conflict de-escalation where we see, for example, Code Enforcement officers respond before law enforcement does,” said Yoshioka.

Her research into the matter stemmed after she and her friends had posted Black Lives Matter fliers in a local neighborhood where sheriff’s deputies showed up to remove the fliers, Yoshioka said. 

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