Sunday Commentary: When the Police Cannot Follow Up on a Simple Vehicle Theft

Davis Police Car

There Are Tradeoffs and Consequences When the City Lacks Resources

For years I have been arguing the point that there are consequences when the city lacks resources for basic services, and sometimes it seems that my comments simply fall on deaf ears.  Well here is a perfect example of what I have been talking about – the Davis Police Department lacks the resources to investigate certain crimes.

A lady posted this on Nextdoor:

“The case of my stolen car and how it was found has good evidence such as fingerprints taken by Yuba City police and evidence found in car. A neighbor called the police having noticed an unusual car. They could be interviewed. Also stolen was a Garmin GPS which when turned on, shows where it is located. All these things are great leads to catching the people who did this.”

Except there is one problem – no one is going to do the investigation.

The lady was told: “Yuba City Police say it is Davis Police case – they sent information. I call Davis Police and am basically told they have dropped it. They said they only have 4 detectives so they have to prioritize. They encouraged ME to work with the Yuba City Police (who are saying it is not their case).

“I don’t know why gangs from other communities coming to Davis to rifle through cars, steal wheels and steal cars is not a higher priority. If this bunch could be caught it could send a message to perhaps stop this kind of late night crime – especially before they become more bold. Why do I have play detective?”

The answer I got from the Davis Police department is that the city lacks the resources to follow up on every crime.  Crimes against a person take priority over property crimes and the city of Davis unfortunately is getting more of the former.

I think it would serve the Davis Police well to better explain that situation when an individual calls them to report a crime.  After all, nothing is more frustrating than having your life impacted because your car was stolen, only to be told that we only have four detectives and we are dropping it.

There has been talk about the need to find in the budget resources to add patrol officers.

Back in 2015, then-Assistant Chief Darren Pytel told the Vanguard that hiring more patrol officers would be unlikely to have much effect on the crime rate.  Sure, people like to see a cop drive down the street twice a day, but he said there is no correlation between that and reducing crimes.

At the same time, having more patrol officers in the downtown might serve to deter some of the violent crime.

But that doesn’t get at the need for more resources for the city to be able to investigate crimes and catch people like the ones who stole this vehicle.

The big picture of the budget is frankly not encouraging.  As we have pointed out over the years, the city of Davis survived the Great Recession more or less through the combination of attrition and deferred maintenance.

There was some structural change to compensation systems, but, for the most part, as Mayor Robb Davis continues to point out, the city is actually paying more money for fewer employees who are taking home less salary.

Worse than that, the city has somewhere between $8 million and $10 million in shortfalls for basic infrastructure needs in addition to the growing list of unfunded liabilities for pensions and retiree medical.  That means the city has prioritized roads, sidewalks and bike paths, but there is also a need to upgrade city buildings and park maintenance.

When the Vanguard met with the fire chief earlier this week, he had his own list of needs in terms of training facilities and the fire stations themselves, in addition to desiring four on an engine (again, I have been told that is not happening).

So where is the city going to get the money to fill current needs?  The council has started with preliminary talks about tax increases, but, again, the city has deferred those discussions in previous years due to lack of support and lack of agreement.

The Vanguard has pushed for more in the way of economic development as a means to generate more tax revenue, but many of the same residents who complain about lack of resources for police are also not willing to vote for Measure R projects that might help the city be able to provide these services.

I think there is a lack of awareness and, frankly, inadequate explanation on the part of city leaders that something has to give.  If you are not going to generate the type of revenue needed for city services, the only choice the city has is to cut back city services – and that means things that you deem to be necessary for safely running the community.

This incident serves as just one such reminder that there are consequences which come with these kinds of policy decisions.

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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22 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: When the Police Cannot Follow Up on a Simple Vehicle Theft”

  1. John Hobbs

    Two thoughts here:

    Maybe the cops should re-prioritize so that there are more feet on the street and fewer butts in seats.

    (Cops are historically lazy, that’s why they took the job.)

    If you can’t respond to serious property crimes, maybe you should dump a couple of feel good programs that waste resources on public relations. Solving and stopping crimes is always good P.R.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      I’m not sure either of these points apply here.  Please explain which programs you believe should be cut and what police staffing in Davis you believe is being misused.

      1. John Hobbs

        Your town, your choices. The already overpaid and under-tasked cops aren’t doing the essential job. Same in my town. I’d like to fire them all and hire private police.

  2. Roberta Millstein

    The Vanguard has pushed for more in the way of economic development as a means to generate more tax revenue

    And more economic development will mean more citizens and the need for even more police.  Economic development isn’t a blank check.

  3. Richard C

    The Vanguard has pushed for more in the way of economic development as a means to generate more tax revenue,

    I believe that the Vanguard has also pushed for more in the way of cost containment.  From the people I talk with, the belief is that the City is still overly generous in terms of employee salaries and benefits.

    1. David Greenwald

      The Vanguard has consistently pushed for cost containment, taxes, and economic development as a way to increase our net revenue.   The police issue here simply illustrates the costs of not having a sustainable budget, imo.

  4. Mike Hart

    Honestly why should the police care?

    Put the bastard into prison for 20 years and its worthwhile.  But instead, they catch them, they get out instantly and are back on the streets again. The liberal justice system makes it pretty much pointless to arrest people for property crimes. Catch them and they just come back again doing the same thing next week.  It is a waste of resources.

    Take a stand David- if you want to argue for dramatically stronger sentencing and mandatory long-term jailing for property crimes and then it makes sense… you would get a lot of support in this community that are tired of being victimized.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “Honestly why should the police care?”

      I’m not sure you’re following here, the police don’t seem to have the resources to catch the person.

      “if you want to argue for dramatically stronger sentencing and mandatory long-term jailing for property crimes and then it makes sense”

      I don’t support stronger sentences and mandatory jailing, and frankly if you don’t catch the person to begin with due to lack of resources it doesn’t help anyway – which is the problem identified in this article.

      1. Mike Hart

        Oh I am fine with giving the police more resources.  But a better way is catch once and be done with it…  The number of career criminals who are caught here is mind-bending.  They simply use Davis as their ATM.  Catch them and not have to think about them again for a few decades and very quickly the police’s job becomes a lot easier.

        1. Howard P

          Yes… and we should also use more resources to weed out the voyeurs, and those who attempt to prey on young female students who live in their vicinity… yes, more resources would be good… another under-reported ‘crime’ that even when reported, don’t rise to a priority for law enforcement…

  5. John Hobbs

    ” the police don’t seem to have the resources to catch the person.”

    I contend that they have plenty of resources, but they do not use them wisely or at least to the public’s benefit.

  6. Tia Will

    Hi John,

    I’d like to fire them all and hire private police.”

    Well there may be some private militia members willing to fill that role for you for the right price.

    I contend that they have plenty of resources, but they do not use them wisely or at least to the public’s benefit.”

    Your evidence for this claim would be ?

     

    1. Robert Canning

      That’s not much of an answer.  Where’s the evidence that the cops in Davis are overpaid and do little work? I think these are outrageous claims that have little basis in fact and actually show an ignorance of the relationship between policing and crime. As now-Chief Pytel pointed out a couple years ago, the correlation between patrolling cops and crime rates is tenuous at best.  This is not a simple black/white issue as your comments would suggest.

      1. John Hobbs

        ” the correlation between patrolling cops and crime rates is tenuous at best.  This is not a simple black/white issue as your comments would suggest.”

        “The answer I got from the Davis Police department is that the city lacks the resources to follow up on every crime.  Crimes against a person take priority over property crimes and the city of Davis unfortunately is getting more of the former.”

        If there aren’t enough cops to send one to investigate a GTA or burglary, you don’ have enough cops available. You need more (on the street and out of their seat). When you let little sociopaths get away with property crimes, they start to think that the cops are stupid and lazy and they are emboldened to take down bigger prey.

  7. Tia Will

    Hi Jim,

    We could also avoid importing crime through expensive social programs.”

    Would you care to clarify this statement since I honestly do not have a clue what you are talking about ?

     

    1. Jim Hoch

      Big “A” affordable housing and other subsidized programs. From the Davis Enterprise there seems to be a  disproportionate number of police calls to an address on 5th.

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