post by Erik part 1
Posted in the Santa Cruz Forum
#1 Dec 2, 2013
Erik Sebastian Bovee
2 days ago
This op-ed piece fails to address a few vital facts about crime and the demographics of Santa Cruz. Without understanding precisely why Santa Cruz suffers the highest rates of crime in the state, and the highest rates of homelessness in the nation, it is impossible to make prescriptions.
The city of Santa Cruz is unique in California, and perhaps in the nation, in that it has the demographics and property values of a well-to-do resort and university community, but has the crime levels of the worst blighted communities. Santa Cruz has levels of education, income, property values markedly higher than the national and state averages. And yet it has levels of property and violent crime that equal or surpass the worst blighted communities. There is no other community that looks like it. http://santacruzcrime.com/abou ...
The immediate question to ask is 'why'? What has Santa Cruz done differently from other communities? Places with many university students, places with many tourists, warm weather, and plenty of retail alcohol outlets, none of them suffer Santa Cruz's anomalous combination of relative affluence, and catastrophic public safety. Cities with similar characteristics - Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, San Diego - don't even come close, and cities that are demographically most similar, such as Petaluma and Davis, suffer a small fraction of the rates of crime and homelessness as Santa Cruz.
#2 Dec 2, 2013
The Task Force has pointed out a number of important areas where Santa Cruz has failed. The Santa Cruz County Superior Court has been a particular focus, and it is clear that our court does not perform like courts in surrounding counties. Sentencing is completely out of line with state trends. Criminals face few consequences for their crimes. Conviction rates appear to be anomalously low, according to California Judicial Council reports. And there is strong evidence that criminals are aware of this fact, and migrate to Santa Cruz to ply their trades: arrest records, for example for prostitution, show large numbers of arrestees from the central valley and east bay who come specifically to Santa Cruz. Arrested criminals, interviewed, state specifically that committing crime in Santa Cruz carries less risk, and fewer consequences than elsewhere. Bike thieves come here specifically to take advantage of this fact. People who distribute large quantities of heroin and methamphetamine come here specifically to take advantage of this fact: the enormous population of addicted and self-medicating mentally ill, many of whom are homeless, and the thousands of needles collected on the streets, beaches and in parks attest to it.
On top of this, Santa Cruz is dramatically under-policed. Santa Cruz has 94 budgeted positions for sworn officers, but has been able to fill only 89. BUT, just as important, there are 9 officers on long term leave, and 16 officers have been on long term leave in the last year. This includes injury and disability. When I surveyed other police departments in California with 80-90 sworn officers the average number on long term leave? One officer. SCPD receive an ENORMOUS number of calls to service in a year. They are forced into a reactive policing mode, with the low staff numbers, and the high crime rates, and high number of calls to service. This takes a heavy toll on officers, but it also means that criminals are less likely to be caught in Santa Cruz. And criminals are aware of this.
In this context, critique in the op-ed piece above about 'deterrence theory', and the ineffectiveness of 'getting tough' or cracking down on crime across the country are largely meaningless. Santa Cruz is simply lacking adequate law enforcement resources, and has a judiciary that is, in many ways, derelict.'Getting tough' has nothing to do with it. Lack of basic judicial and law enforcement functions have created a weak spot on the map. And, unfortunately, Santa Cruz has done little or nothing to drive the national agenda to end poverty, homelessness, or the failed war on drugs, and has also utterly failed to address these problems locally. The rates of homelessness and addiction continue to rise, as do the crime rates in the city. Santa Cruz has only succeeded in creating an environment where crime and addiction thrive.
#3 Dec 2, 2013
I think the post in the Sentinel by Erik is the most articulated and factual posts I've seen in a long time. I'm a fan, WHAT.
#4 Dec 2, 2013
#5 Dec 2, 2013
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