Victor Valley College Trustee — and my good friend — Joe Brady last Sunday called for an emergency meeting of “city and regional leaders” to address the spike in violent crime throughout the High Desert. Violent crime is just the tip of the (crime) iceberg. What about the thousands of non-violent, petty crimes occurring every day in the High Desert?
Frankly I don’t think there’s a need for an emergency meeting; if these city and regional leaders can’t put aside their political and philosophical differences (and leave their egos at the door), all that a meeting would do is create a publicity stunt to give the impression that they’re actually going to do something.
The options for possible solutions are severely limited, due in part to inadequate financial resources and multiple competing community issues demanding equal attention (roads, homelessness, economic development, just to name a few). Despite all that is currently being done to fight crime it obviously isn’t enough. Adding more deputies — the often proposed solution — would simply mean more deputies to respond quicker to the volume of calls for service or track criminals but would likely have no effect on the crime rate.
If more police are hired, and more crooks are arrested, if we don’t call for more Deputy District Attorneys to prosecute the cases, and more judges and courtrooms to try the cases, and more jail space — we’re making a mockery of the notion that more cops will prevent crime.
In California the proverbial pendulum has shifted from protecting victims’ rights to criminals’ right. The bills and propositions listed below not only effectively nullify the actions of law enforcement, but contribute to a dysfunctional criminal justice system. Consider these bills and propositions approved and their effect:
‒ 2011: Assembly Bill 109 was implemented, allowing individuals convicted of nonviolent or non-serious felonies to serve their sentence under the jurisdiction of the county instead of state prison.
‒ 2014: Proposition 47 was passed by voters. It reduced penalties for certain drug and property crimes and lowered criminal sentences by reducing them from felonies that can bring long prison sentences to misdemeanors that instead bring up to only a year in jail.
‒ 2016: Proposition 57 was passed by voters and it drastically shortened prison sentences for “non-violent” inmates convicted of property crimes who earned their way to prison due to their underlying crime or criminal history. These releases will only add to the dramatic increase in the property crime rate in California ushered in by Proposition 47.
‒ [In process] 2017: Senate Bill 54 was approved by the California Senate; it will keep California’s law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration agents and in essence make California a “sanctuary state.”
‒ 2018: Assembly Bill 953 will require California law enforcement agencies to track and analyze traffic stops for possible evidence of racial profiling. Police officers and Sheriff’s deputies will have to fill out special racial profiling reports for complaints and do data collection during traffic stops, detentions or any encounter with a citizen. (Prompting Sheriff McMahon to conclude “It’s crazy,” McMahon told the Daily Press Editorial Board… “You’re going to see proactive activity (by officers and deputies) go down. Then you’re going to see an increase in crime. If crooks can go unchecked, they’re going to do more.”)
‒ [Approved thus far only by the California Senate, not the Assembly] California is rethinking monetary bail; State Senator Bob Hertzberg and Assemblyman Rob Bonta are pursuing legislation this session to see monetary bail eliminated.
The San Bernardino County Probation Department supervises and provides case management services for approximately 20,000 adult offenders and 3,500 youthful offenders and an additional 500 youth in two detention and assessment centers. How many more cases can the department take on and provide effective management?
I have a solution that doesn’t involve an emergency meeting at all. It involves implementing a comprehensive, simple communication strategy in every community, using every available method to communicate with the public at-large.
The message, however, would involve risk taking by the “city and regional leaders” because the message is likely one the general public doesn’t want to hear, but has to hear. The message? The general public has to take more responsibility for their personal safety and security! We can no longer rely on traditional methods to make our neighborhoods safer.
Instead of the public waiting for crime to occur and then contacting law enforcement, the public has to work in closer partnership with law enforcement and focus more attention on prevention (doing things to reduce their crime risks) and support law enforcement by becoming the extra “eyes and ears” and report suspicious, unusual behavior before a crime is committed.
Neighborhood Watch, which has been around since 1971, has continually preached crime prevention nationwide and taught ways to reduce risks. Crime prevention is critical because with current law there’s little incentive for crooks to stop committing crime. I’m sure they think — “the odds are already in my favor that I won’t get caught, and even if I do get caught, I’ll serve little time, if any.”
If this “emergency meeting” is going to take place, it should only have one agenda item: How can our elected officials use their collective influence to work with the lobbyists and our state legislators to change the laws that weaken the efforts of law enforcement.
Anything short of that would be nothing more than a publicity stunt.
Michael Stevens is a Victorville resident and a former San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Crime Prevention Officer.