UPDATED BELOW: The City of Sacramento has a big problem, and it isn’t the “existential threat of climate change.”
Narcotics, burglary, aggravated assault, battery, vandalism, and weapon-related crimes are now commonplace in residential neighborhoods where new moms push strollers on daily walks, kids bicycle to baseball practice, runners prepare for the next marathon, elderly groups do tai chi together, neighbors walk their dogs, and families picnic.
“Open drug use has worsened in the Broadway area of Land Park recently, according to neighbors who say they are upset about a lack of action to combat lawlessness,” KCRA 3 reported this weekend. Only this isn’t a recent problem – it’s been building exponentially, and since Mayor Darrell Steinberg was elected in 2016.
Is this a case of bad timing for Steinberg or a case of bad policy and politics?
As the Globe reported last week, “The latest Starbucks casualty is in Sacramento, along the Broadway corridor, wrought with blocks of homeless transients, escalating crime, and legitimate safety concerns for the residents and business owners who live and work there.”
The Sacramento Land Park neighborhood is also where long time resident Kate Tibbitts was brutally murdered in her home by a parolee. Last fall “homeless” transient Troy Davis, out on the streets despite his recent parole violation, raped and murdered downtown Sacramento resident Kate Tibbitts, in the Land Park neighborhood, killing her dogs and setting her house on fire,” the Globe reported.
Tibbitts horrific murder remains a fresh imprint on locals’s psyche, but seems to be a far-away, inconvenient memory for local politicians.
This past weekend, this transient man was making such a scene tossing trash at the now-closed Starbucks on Broadway, the police were called. He has an ankle bracelet on.
Sacramento Police officers showed up, spoke to the crazed transient and then left.
The Globe has contacted SacPD to ask what the protocols are when responding to a transient making a scene, also wearing an ankle bracelet, but we have not heard back. We will update the article when we do.
(UPDATE: The Sacramento Police Department responded to the Globe’s request for information about the transient with the ankle monitor. Lt. Kinney said there are any number of reasons someone is in an ankle monitor – home supervision, monitoring on probation, a pre-trial monitor, etc… so the ankle monitor isn’t necessarily significant of a crime. Lt. Kinney said even if he was on probation, with so many changes in California law (Propositions 47 and 57), unless he is committing a fresh crime, they may just warn him. They also have to consider overcrowding in County jail. They used to be able to detain the person for a probation or parole violation, but not any longer with the law changes.)
Land Park neighbors shared several photos and videos of people shooting up in front of a bank on Broadway, of a person injecting a syringe into her neck while parked in a car on Broadway, someone cooking drugs on the handle bars of a rental Lime Bike on Broadway… all out in the open, KCRA reported and has the photos.
KCRA received a statement from Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela:
“The police have gotten more resources than they ever had before – $47m additional in just the last two budgets. Despite that increase in funding our crime has gone up, because the issues here are not about enforcement. We will not see a decrease in crime until we start prioritizing the reasons people commit crimes: drug and mental health treatment, affordable housing, economic opportunity.”
Many in the city dispute Valenzuela’s claim of $47M additional funding for SacPD. The budget includes money for pensions, police equipment, and other non-officer spending. SacPd is still seriously understaffed. Sacramento had more police officers on the street in 2008 than we do today in 2022, and the city population has grown significantly since then. Sac Fire’s budget has also increased, but nobody complains about that.
Councilwoman Valenzuela continues to blame police, but now at least admits that drug addiction and mental health is a large part of the crimes by homeless transients. But mouthing the words isn’t enough for the Councilwoman facing a recall election.
In April, the Globe reported “Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, together with Democratic state lawmakers and ‘criminal justice reform’ advocates, held a press conference and demanded $3 billion ‘for immediate and substantial investments in crime prevention and healing services for crime victims.’ Their demand follows the weekend [gang] shooting in Sacramento which left 6 dead and 12 injured.”
Steinberg has demanded a lot of state and federal funding since he took over the Mayor’s office in 2016. It seems to be all he knows how to do – demand and spend, and we don’t really know where the money is spent with so many questionable NGOs and non-profits attached to city government.
Steinberg created the non-profit Steinberg Institute in 2015 while still a State Senator, just prior to leaving the California Senate, to help the mentally-ill: “Since its inception in January 2015, the institute has helped enact sweeping improvements in California mental health policy, including securing $2 billion to provide housing and care for homeless people living with brain illness,” the website says.
Has the Steinberg Institute spent $2 billion helping the mentally-ill, creating housing and funding crime prevention? The odds are no, they have not. We are betting that $2 billion isn’t going to the mentally ill, drug addicted homeless transients living on Sacramento streets.
With Steinberg at the April press event following the downtown gang shooting were gun control and defund-the-police advocates:
- Californians for Safety and Justice works to replace prison and justice system waste, and is supported by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.
- Smart Justice California is a left-of-center criminal justice advocacy group. It is a project of Tides Advocacy, with a $52 million budget.
- ACLU California Action is a left-leaning activist organization and state-level arm of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Advocates used the opportunity to call for more state funding for crime prevention, cash assistance to victims and survivors of violent crime, and “interventions around gun violence.” However, the advocates for interventions around gun violence offered no specific solutions – just funding. Maybe these groups are where Steinberg’s demand for funding end up.
After another deadly shooting downtown in July, Mayor Steinberg announced the “investments” he was making to make Downtown Sacramento more safe:
- increased our minimum patrol staffing on Saturdays
- bike officers now work until 3 a.m. on weekends
- Officers in the entertainment unit are also working until 3 a.m., focusing on hotspots in downtown and midtown
- Additional officers have now been directed to patrol parking lots near nightclubs to make sure they aren’t used by people getting in fights or engaging in illegal activity
- an additional funding allocation from City Council pays for two foot patrol officers every day
This is nice and already should already be standard operating procedure.
Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher suggested a different tact last Spring:
- End the Early Release of Violent Felons
- Restore Stiff Penalties for Gun & Gang Crimes
- Disarm & Penalize Felons with Guns
Those policies would make a difference.
As for the downtown neighbors and the Land Park neighborhood, Land Park Community Association vice president Kristina Rogers told KCRA, “We’ve got people dealing drugs, and shooting up, and having crazy episodes in front of children … I keep hearing about revitalization in this area, and this is what we’re getting instead.”
She also said a lack of accountability is leading to drug use and dealing, assault and other crimes in the area: “Crime is happening every day 24/7, drug dealing is happening 24/7,” said Rogers. “I want answers from the city.”
We all want answers from the City.
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