Fewer Cops Equals More Crime
As you may have read in a previous post, my Eastside Neighbors threw a wonderful picnic last Sunday. Lots of fun chatting with new and old friends and watching all those happy children playing games and eating slabs of watermelon... a good time.
However, during the day I had a chance to chat with some folks who are not particularly happy with how things are going in our fair city.... some of those have been the victims of crimes recently and they're beginning to ask questions about why this seems to be happening all of a sudden.
For example, one person at the picnic told me that there's been a recent rash of car burglaries on the Eastside over the past few days. In fact, he emailed me a photo he took of one car, apparently the day after the driver's side window was smashed and the contents of the car taken. According to reports, these seem to be crimes of opportunity.
Another fellow - a long-time resident who lives just a couple blocks from me - had his home burglarized during a very narrow window in time when he and his wife were both out on their exercise routines. And this was a strange crime... the thief took some cash, but not a single piece of the wife's jewelry, which he had dumped on their bed. However, he DID take new and in-use toothpaste tubes and men's toiletries!
It's hard to know what's causing this spike in these crimes, but it's common knowledge that since our neighbors in Newport Beach have cracked down on rehab homes several have opened up in Costa Mesa - and particularly in the Eastside neighborhoods where this crime is now occurring. We need more information to confirm that link, but....
We already know that crime is up - WAY UP - in the north part of town. Diane Hill, via her United Neighbors email blast, provides a periodic update on crimes in that part of town that really gets our attention. You can read more at her website, HERE. Our friends in Mesa Verde, Mesa North, Halecrest and Mesa del Mar are reporting similar auto burglaries. I suspect we're going to be hearing more about crime numbers city-wide very soon. We just hope Mayor Eric Bever can handle the news. Some will recall that a year or so ago when interim crime stats were presented he got all huffy and demanded better numbers!
I do know that the City head count is down to 433 - it was 611 two years ago. I do know that the Costa Mesa Fire Department would be unable to implement Interim Chief Tom Arnold's restructuring plan today because his department is nine (9) staffers short of the number required to implement it. I also know that the CMPD is operating beyond thin these days, which has required the extraction of our two School Resource Officers (SROs) back into other assignments. The CMPD is now working with many fewer officers than the 131 authorized by this council. And that number is approximately 20% below the staffing levels recommended by consultants they hired and by at least one former police chief. In fact, it is my understanding that the actual number of sworn officers on the job today is smaller than when former Chief Dave Snowden took over the department more than two decades ago! I do know that we now have several officers recovering from on-duty injuries and that we also recently lost a couple others who departed the department. I do know that agencies like Anaheim, Newport Beach, Irvine and Huntington Beach are actively recruiting for THEIR police departments. And, I DO KNOW that it takes from 12 to 18 months to recruit, qualify and train a new police officer, so even if our current council got over their hissy fit about not permitting ANY public safety staffers to be hired until a 2nd pension tier is in place, we are more than a year away from having those cops on the street. Feeling safer today? I'm sure not!
Later this afternoon the City Council will hold a study session devoted entirely to the budget, with the goal of being able to cobble together something approaching a balanced budget before the council meeting on June 19th, when they are supposed to have a document ready to approve. I expect we may be hearing just how many jobs will be lost in order to fill potholes and pave alleys on the accelerated schedule Jim Righeimer seems to be demanding. I find myself wondering how many residents will actually show up this afternoon beginning at 4:30 to address their concerns to the council. I guess we'll see.
I hope any of you reading this that are concerned about the public safety of this city will take the time to let your council know where YOU feel their budget priorities should be as they prepare this new document. Give them a call, write them an email or step to the speaker's podium and let them know how you feel. And don't feel too bad if it seems like they're ignoring you... they do that all them time. And there lies the problem...