One woman said that she constantly sees people walking down her Westside street checking every car door handle to see if there's something to steal.
An elementary school student said she was sick of crime, scared at night, and that her house had been broken into, things stolen and her parents couldn't buy a good security camera because they lost so much money.
Another woman said she would call police to report prowlers, but a pizza would get there sooner. "They are really busy."
Overall, people who spoke in front of the Santa Cruz City Council Tuesday afternoon were angry about living in a city in which they no longer felt safe.
What began several weeks ago with a video of hypodermic needles and trash found in beach side caves near Cowell Beach has become a movement. At least 50 people walked to the council meeting at 3:30 p.m. along the railroad tracks from Fair Avenue.
They said they picked up scores of needles and saw tons of trash and several blamed the council for not doing enough to stop crime.
"We're building big buildings and a Monterey Bay Sanctuary building, but within 100 yards of that building I'm finding tons of garbage," said one woman. "Literally tons. I'm finding biological waste, I'm finding human feces, I'm finding people living there...We're talking about big projects, but if I can walk here and find 50 needles just on my way to the city council meeting, I don't think we should be talking about a desalination plant. I think we have to look at what we have. We have a serious emergency."
Her sentiment was echoed by most of the 14 speakers who addressed the council. Burglaries, car break-ins and methamphetamine were the biggest complaints.
"I don't want my daughter riding her bike to school because she has to go over the railroad tracks where we are finding hypodermic needles, empty bags of meth and some really sketchy people hanging around," said famous surfer and fourth generation Santa Cruzan Ken Collins.
"I have a house and I can lock the door and feel safe," he added. "There are people who are homeless who don't have that option."
This wasn't the blame-the-homeless-for-all-the-city's-problems that some feared it would be. But it also wasn't a meeting filled with easy solutions.
One man suggested putting a bike path along the railroad tracks in order to bring more people there.
One woman thought that donations to the homeless should be more regulated. She said she cleans "tent after tent" from the caves. "Where are they getting all that stuff?"
A nurse who works at Janus, the drug counseling service, suggested that some problems could be solved by giving more money to help those who want to get off drugs but can't afford treatment.
Steve Pleich, a citizen advocate who ran for city council, said his needle exchange program has collected 200,000 used needles in a year in the city. More funds would mean more than only four service days and more needles off the street, he suggested.
Several councilmembers lived in the same neighborhoods and faced the same problems, said Vice Mayor Hilary Bryant.
Councilman Ryan Coonerty suggested that a lot of the problems stemmed from a liberal attitude and tolerance toward drugs that have characterized the city for decades. He said it wasn't a problem you could blame on the seven people sitting on the city council – who have made fighting crime a priority and maintaining the police budget for his eight years serving – but that the community needed to get involved to solve the problem.
At least two people voiced concern for the safety of the homeless. Activist Robert Norse held a sign saying that the streets were unsafe for the homeless, and another man said he'd seen graffiti suggesting the homeless should be lynched and was concerned about that.
He brought up a new Facebook page that posts pictures of suspected criminals called Local Lurkers and feared it could spark reprisals against innocent people.
Police statistics show that crime isn't rising as fast as the perception of it is. Through October of this year compared to last year, burglaries have dropped by 5 percent, from 468 to 444. However, larcenies have gone up 6 percent, from 2315 to 2253.
Burglary is breaking into a home to steal property. Larceny is taking property from a person, but includes shoplifting, stolen bicycles, objects stolen from yards and theft of wallets.
Car theft in the city has risen by 46 percent, with 218 reported in 2012 compared to 149 in 2011. Rapes have gone up from 20 last year to 29 this year.
For all the crime stats, go to this page.
Another hearing on fighting crime will be held at council chambers at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 17.