Yet Another Successful Town Hall
Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Wendy Leece hosted yet another successful Town Hall meeting Monday night. This is the
NORTH PART OF TOWN COVERED
The event was held at the Harbor Trinity Church at Baker and Fairview and was aimed primarily at our good neighbors who live in the north part of town. Based on a quick headcount conducted early in the meeting, about a third of the approximately 50 attendees were from the Mission/Mendoza section of Mesa del Mar, another third from the Paularino area of Mesa North and the remainder from venues throughout the city.
Leece hosted the event and was supported by Corporal Doug Johnson and Senior Gang Officer David Sevilla of the Costa Mesa Police Department plus Walter Garcia from MIKA community development corporation, who provided the essential translations throughout the evening. Also present was Diane Hill from United Neighbors, who handed out information on her organization,
POLITICIANS AND WANNABES
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer attended the entire meeting. City Council candidates Sue Lester, Marshall Krupp and Harold Weitzberg came to hear what troubles our neighbors from the north part of town. Among the 50 or so attendees was a grumpy old fella from Mesa North, who stayed for a few minutes, then left - apparently not willing to endure the need to translate the discussion. Too bad, too, because he might have benefited from a question that was asked about white gangs in Costa Mesa.
Corporal Johnson gave a brief overview of the crime reporting areas in question for the evening - there are 37 distinct reporting areas in Costa Mesa. For the 12 months ended July 14th, area 21 had approximately 1800 calls for service, of which 284 resulted in reports being filed or arrests being made. Area 17 had 3200 calls and 452 reports or arrests. He gave a quick comparison to areas 1 and 2 - in the southwest side of town - which have 8,000 - 10,000 calls for the same time frame.
CRIME, GANGS, ALLEYS AND CODE ENFORCEMENT
Most of the issues folks wanted to discuss were gangs, crime prevention, alley safety and maintenance and code enforcement issues - run down properties, trash and debris, etc. Despite the need to translate both directions in the discussions things went very smoothly.
GANG ACTIVITY UP AND DOWN
Both Corporal Johnson and officer Sevilla fielded most of the questions and provided specific statistics about gangs and other crimes. According to Sevilla, gang activity in the two areas in question is down, but he explained that it kind of ebbs and flows like the tide. They discussed preventive measures - after school programs, sports, churches and the use of School Resource Officers as effective tools to combat gang proliferation. Those School Resource Officers are theoretically scheduled to be eliminated this fall unless something dramatic happens. White gangs tend to be more organized, money oriented and violent. Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach have large white gang populations.
Although we continue to hear that property crimes are up dramatically in these areas of town, no specific percentages were given. Both officers acknowledged that crime is up.
A question was asked, in response to a statement made by Johnson about drugs being a major part of the crime problem in our city, if he was talking about marijuana. Johnson's answer was NO. Other drugs - cocaine, heroin and meth - were the primary problem drugs, followed by prescription drugs like Vicodin and Oxycodon. The effects of those drugs can normally lead to criminal behavior.
LOTS OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Nearly two dozen attendees filled out question cards and several others simply just asked their questions - usually as a follow-on to another one. Several people seemed concerned about the number of officers available to fight crime these days. When the issue of gang detail staffing came up Johnson and Sevilla told us that the gang unit is staffed with 4 right now and has been staffed as such for a couple years.
CONCERNED ABOUT CMPD STAFFING
I spoke privately with Corporal Johnson who expressed concern for our current staffing levels, especially right now with the safety demands of the Orange County Fair. Most, if not all, officers are working mandatory overtime to cover shifts PLUS the demands of the Fairgrounds coverage. The combination of the month-long fair plus the fact that the CMPD is currently operating with at least 10 fewer officers than the authorized strength - 131, which is down from 164 two years ago - is stretching our manpower very, very thin.
A WORTHY EFFORT
I think most folks who attended the Town Hall came away with plenty of information about their communities. Based on brief conversations with some of them, most felt it was very worthwhile. Thanks to Leece, the CMPD and MIKA for their efforts. A little sidebar - MIKA Community Development is an organization that has benefited for many years from contributions of Community Development Block Grand (CDBG) funds that are distributed by the city each year. This year, however, at the recent meeting where the funds were to be allocated, Bever capriciously and arbitrarily just yanked their funding and gave it to a couple of Gary Monahan's pet organizations, even though the 3R Committee spent hours vetting the organizations, ranking them as to need and contribution to the community and providing their best suggestion to the City Council.