On Friday, December 7, 2012, Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh held a town hall meeting to discuss public safety in the community. Numerous charts and graphs were provided to the 100+ citizens in attendance. The information makes the case for raising taxes so that more police officers can be hired to protect the community.
Instead of coming right out and asking for support to raise taxes, Mayor Marsh told the attendees that he did not want to share his agenda with the public. Instead, he asked the citizens to devise a list of strategies and resources to improve public safety.
The citizens made about 120 recommendations, many of them overlapping in scope and substance. They had been divided into 12 groups and each group came up with about 10 ideas. Mayor Marsh announced at the end of the meeting that the recommendations would be compiled by a select committee and the best ones would be brought forward for discussion at a meeting to be held on Friday, February 1st, 2013, at the Modesto Centre Plaza.
Summary of the Staff Report
City staff brought out some important facts, including the following: Modesto has 1.1 police officers for every 1000 citizens. The California state average is 1.5 officers per 1000 citizens. Nationwide, the average is 2.2 officers per 1000 citizens.
So far in 2012, Modesto’s crime rate increased about 24% over the first ten months of the previous year. Of the top 25 California cities by population, Modesto’s per capita rate of violent crime ranks 5th worst. For California cities with a comparable population of 175,000-250,000, Modesto ranks 2nd per capita in violent crime and 1st in property crime.
Logically, hiring more cops would solve the problem, right? According to Acting Police Chief Gene Balentine, the early release of prisoners may be compounding the problem of increased crime. Criminals aren’t serving their full sentence and are back out on the streets committing more crimes. A participant noted there is a disconnect between judges and the police about sentencing and releasing prisoners. Easy release via low bail lets criminals commit multiple crimes before going to trial.
Looking for a Solution
Mayor Marsh commented that the public should not look to state government to provide help. However, given the fact that state government has set up conditions leading to the current crime waves via inadequate prison and judicial operations, our representatives to the state legislature shouldn’t be given a free pass. They should be working hard to address the crime problem now. Nothing will happen if our local elected leaders fail to plead our case.
Taxpayers should hesitate to throw money at the crime problem until our local and state governments come up with a comprehensive solution. Absent such a plan, money will be wasted in ever-increasing amounts and current problems may not get any better. The crime problem will probably get worse before common sense action is taken to correct imbalances in the entire justice system.