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