It’s a natural instinct to trust people. And I don’t mean the Kaa staring into Mowgli with those googly eyes singing, “Trusssst in me … ” kind of trust. Frankly, as a kid, that just freaked me out. I’m talking about the everyday person-to-person contact we have where we just talk to each other. Whether it’s talking about how we spent the whole weekend washing the car or how the Bears should have made it to the Super Bowl, we are generally being honest. But sure, we embellish a little — maybe even exaggerate the unrealistic possibilities.

In my job, I talk to people all of the time. I like talking to people almost as much as I like turtles, but I digress. When I’m having a conversation, my natural instinct is to believe the person, because I’d like to think people are generally honest. So when they explain to me that they ran that red light because the sun was in their eyes, I want to accept that as an honest mistake. Maybe it’s the fact it’s 11 p.m. and raining that raises some minor concerns with their excuse, but they could have been talking about another red light they ran earlier today … People wouldn’t lie, would they?

Unfortunately, there are some dishonest people. Again, I think that they’re the minority, but there are some who try to take advantage of people’s trusting nature. Today, for example, I had a great idea for my article involving the comparison of the Scooby Doo Adventures to modern day crime scene investigation scenarios and how the introduction of a foreign element, i.e., Scrappy Doo, can destroy the potential greatness of DNA comparisons. Instead, I responded to a call at one of the student housing complexes involving door-to-door magazine solicitors. A young woman answered her door to a pleasant man and woman giving a spiel about how they needed to sell enough magazine subscriptions to go to Europe. They seemed so honest. Seventy bucks later and they are in the wind after promising you that you’ll get something in six to eight weeks. If “annoyed” counts as “something,” then yeah, it’s coming …

I gave the magazine sales people my money. How can I get it back?

Every year this issue (no pun intended) comes up. First of all, I don’t want to put every door-to-door salesman in the same category. Ten-year-old Girl Scouts selling cookies are not the same as van-loads of people going from college-to-college selling magazines or seven-dollar Kit Kat bars. But think about it this way: Would you walk up to a random person on Del Playa on a Friday night, hand them $50 cash and accept the promise that they would deliver a fresh hot Domino’s pizza and six pack of beer in about eight weeks? You never know. Some people would show up at your door with a pizza and some brew. Some would not.

As a cop in this community, I get calls about solicitors fairly often. Sure, some are just doing a hard job and trying to do it honestly. But I’ve also run into many that are on probation for thefts, have warrants or try to tell me they are selling candy for the local high school football team. Interestingly, the guy was 26 years-old with a bottle of Smirnoff in his back pocket, but was still in intensive training for the team. It wasn’t hard to disbelieve that sob story.

So, to keep it simple, let the buyer beware! It’s easy to fall head-first into the story of how someone is pulling themselves up from failure by selling jars of defrosted ice so they can go to Harvard, but use caution. Before you hand them cash, a check with your bank account information on it or a credit card, decide if you would really give that info to some stranger from another city or state based solely on their word and a couple of pieces of paper that say, “Trust Me!” If you really want to donate, there are a lot of great local charities and organizations that really need the help.

If I get caught on radar and pulled over for speeding, does the cop have to show me the radar gun with the speed on it?

When we use radar, it is not actually the speed on the device that makes us stop you — it’s the officer’s visual estimate of how fast you are going. The radar gun is only used to confirm what the officer estimated your speed to be. To complete the radar school, we have to estimate the speed of over 100 cars within three miles per hour. Surprisingly it’s not too hard to do, especially parked ones. But to answer your question, no, the officer is not required to show you. However, it’s a good practice to show you if you ask. Sometimes the speed doesn’t stay on the radar gun and I would have to explain that it was there, but it’s gone now. It was there. Trust me …

I hope you’re all enjoying this brutal “winter” weather. I plan on getting my daughter out on her board to catch some of the “winter” swell. This season can be rough in Santa Barbara. Honestly …

Sgt. Mark Signa is an officer of the UCSB Police Dept.


Got caught by a cop? Your party popped by the Po-Po? Ticked by a ticket? If you have questions, don’t let it eat away at you, Question Authority! Email me anytime at: or call UCSB PD at 893-3446.