Sunday Commentary: Budgetary Shortfalls Leave Us Vulnerable to Wave of Burglaries

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burglarOn these pages, we have not talked much about the rash of burglaries in Davis in the early part of the year.  As of early March, there had been 31 break-ins, along with eight attempted burglaries in Davis this year.  That number may now be approaching 50.

I was reading a letter to the Davis Enterprise discussing citizen patrols and whether citizens should be patrolling neighborhoods.

They then write, “Our police should be given every possible tool to address this situation, immediately! Let’s break out some of those tax revenues we’re getting.”

The letter continues: “Wake up, City Council.”

Earlier this week, another writer in a letter to the editor said, “I have a great deal of respect for our law enforcement officers. They have an extremely difficult job, and often perform it without much thanks or recognition.”

They continue: “Having said that, I think it is time to start asking some difficult questions regarding the wave of brazen burglaries that have been casting a pall over my neighborhood. Questions like, what percentage of department resources have been dedicated to solving these crimes? Like, is it time to divert all officers from parking and traffic enforcement? Like, does our Police Department need additional resources to solve these crimes, and prevent any further property loss, or worse?”

And the writer concludes, “Questions like, at what point do we decide a rising crime rate is unacceptable, and hold our elected officials responsible?”

There is really so much that needs to be written in response to this, starting with, people need to pay more attention to their local governance before they whip out their pens and/or keyboards and fire off angry letters to the local editor.

Neither of these people really seem to understand the extent to which the city is hamstrung and cash-strapped right now.  We have had to close pools, cut back on city services, and somehow these guys believe that there is tax revenue that can be pumped into police.

Things have been too busy to follow up on this, but it needs to be said, I was in a ride-along back in February with the Davis Police.  And the guy was driving around in a car with no computer, no cage in the back; it was basically a regular vehicle with police indicia slapped on the side and fitted with a siren and lights.

I asked him about it, and apparently the police do not have enough cars.  So he drives around on a beat that looks for drunk drivers and other problem drivers, and if he stumbles upon a “bad guy” he has to call for someone else to transport the bad guy.

I am no staffing expert, but I have to believe that a city like Davis is very difficult to properly staff.  There are nights when literally nothing is going on.  Some of the cases that we have followed from Davis are frankly ludicrous.

On the other hand, the setup of Davis and its lack of personnel makes it vulnerable in times like these to waves of crime.

This has been a concern of ours for some time.  We have a fire department that rarely fights real structure fires and yet has 12 firefighters on duty at any given time.  On a good night we have five or six police officers in apparently antiquated vehicles trying to protect our city from real crimes.

We have had more burglaries in the last three months than we have real fires in the last five.

And yet when the city has cut personnel, it always been in a uniform way, not in a way that analyzes actual need.

All of this goes back to the city budget.  We have been warning for some time that the city faces a real crisis of funding right now.  We believe that overly-generous salaries and benefits of the last decade will force the city to have to cut back on vital services because they will not be able to get employees to take enough concessions to meet $7 million in additional budgetary cuts between now and 2015.

The $2.5 million was a start, and had we arrived at that point, we might have had the flexibility to add staffing for more police patrols either through additional staff or overtime.  With the failure to achieve that measure, we presently lack that kind of budgetary flexibility.

In even in the face of setbacks in the past year, such as the failed impasse that could cost another $800,000 or the failed merger, the city is becoming more shrewd and innovative.

One of the most important items on this past week’s council agenda was buried in the consent calendar.  The “Terms, Conditions and Understanding of Compensation for the Individual Fire Management Employees” item had some problems that Rich Rifkin and others noted and the council, at the behest of Sue Greenwald, will take another stab at it in closed session.

But don’t let that fact obscure how important this item is.

As the staff report writes, “The new compensation package under this Terms, Conditions and Understanding of Compensation for the Individual Fire Management Employees [shows that] the reduction in compensation from the current Fire Division Chief varies from approximately $16,000 to $30,000 (for an average total compensation reduction of approximately 12.5%) depending on if the employee takes health insurance benefits or not.”

But the most amazing thing about this is that the positions are open and remain so.  That means the city gets to set the new precedent for contracts with no opposition.  It also means that the city holds the leverage on when and how those positions open up even though there is no fire merger.

In short, this could be the beginning of a whole new era for council.

The problem that we face right now is that staffing needs and city services in some areas are vital and we never distinguished between vital services and non-vital services.

Not only do we pay firefighters more than ten percent higher in contracts than police, we staff far more of them at a given time.

Talking to some in the leadership this week, that may be about to change.  There are staffing changes being proposed to reduce the number of firefighters on duty from 12 to 10.

There is other talk that at least some of the functions that do not involve firefighting or medical calls could revert back to volunteers.

And there is further discussion that we look at ways to separate the firefighting function from the glorified ambulance calls.

The bottom line right now is perhaps we should simply put firefighters on patrol in heavily-hit neighborhoods – they can always put a hose to would-be burglars and teach them a lesson they will never forget.

All kidding aside, the wave of burglaries illustrates very clearly the perils with operating on the margins of a budget without the kind of flexibility we should have had with the actions taken by council last June.

—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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46 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Budgetary Shortfalls Leave Us Vulnerable to Wave of Burglaries”

  1. JustSaying

    “This has been a concern of our for some time.  We have a fire department that rarely fights real structure fires and yet has 12 firefighters on duty at any given time.  On a good night we have five or six police officers in apparently antiquated vehicles trying to protect our city from real crimes.”

    This may have been a concern of yours, but I’ll bet it would be a surprise to most Davis citizens. Wonder what the ratio is in other communities–is it standard to have twice as many paid firefighters on duty as police on patrol day and night?

  2. David M. Greenwald

    That is a good question that I don’t have an answer to. What I can say is that we are one of 15% of departments in this state that still have four on an engine.

  3. justoutsidetown

    “On a good night we have five or six police officers in apparently antiquated vehicles trying to protect our city from real crimes.”

    Only _you_ can protect yourselves from these criminals. Locking doors, installing motion detection alarms, and neighborhood watches come to mind. There will never be enough local police to protect everybody. And if there were a policeman for every homeowner would we really like that kind of ‘1984’ environment?

    These crimes are due to worsening economic conditions, not because there are not enough police.

    Only community involvement can slow or dent these break ins.

    The best long term solution is an improved economy, which sadly looks a long way off.

  4. E Roberts Musser

    [quote] We have a fire department that rarely fights real structure fires and yet has 12 firefighters on duty at any given time. On a good night we have five or six police officers in apparently antiquated vehicles trying to protect our city from real crimes.

    We have had more burglaries in the last three months than we have real fires in the last five.

    And yet when the city has cut personnel, it always been in a uniform way, not in a way that analyzes actual need.[/quote]

    Excellent points…

    [quote]These crimes are due to worsening economic conditions, not because there are not enough police.

    Only community involvement can slow or dent these break ins.

    The best long term solution is an improved economy, which sadly looks a long way off.[/quote]

    Try getting a good sized dog or a yappy small one – a very real deterrent to crime…

  5. David M. Greenwald

    I think there is a general belief that Davis is an easy mark. Quick access to the freeway. Relatively few elaborate security systems. Relatively few people armed. Some people perhaps still don’t lock their doors, though that has changed somewhat since I first moved here. Relatively few police on duty, and many of them in the core responding to parties calls and calls about drunk college students.

  6. Rifkin

    [i]”We have a fire department that rarely fights real structure fires and yet has 12 firefighters on duty at any given time.”[/i]

    I could be wrong–and I will defer to you, David, if you know I am–but I think we have 14 firefighters (which includes fire captains) on duty 24/7. The West Davis and South Davis stations each have one crew (4 each), while the Central Davis station (I think) has 6 people on duty (or maybe 8?). I know when a call comes into the C. Davis station, they always send out two trucks. I seem to recall that one is fully loaded (4) and the other has 2 people. But, again, I defer to you on this …

    .[img]http://www.planningjargon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/borders.jpg[/img]

    One thing I miss about Border’s being closed is I no longer sit out on the patio at Davis Commons, drinking Seattle’s Best Coffee™ and reading a book, only to be interrupted every 30 minutes or so as the two noisy fire trucks would race down E Street to the Richards Blvd. underpass to attend to someone’s sprained ankle until the ambulance arrives to save the day

  7. Rifkin

    [i]”Relatively few police on duty, and many of them in the core responding to parties calls and calls about drunk college students.”[/i]

    Earlier this week–Monday night/Tuesday morning–I awoke at 1:30 AM to the sound of someone banging furiously on my front door. I looked through the window and knew immediately the guy–probably college age, maybe a bit older–was someone I did not know. He was yelling at the top of his lungs “open the door!” I yelled back “get the hell out of here.” I didn’t open the door, of course, and after a short while he slammed shut my screen door (which I guess was not locked) and he left. I have no idea what his intentions were. He caused no damages. I figured he was a wasted college student–he looked wasted–who lived somewhere nearby and thought he was at his residence. I never bothered to report the incident.

  8. Rifkin

    A note of the picture of the guy breaking into a house that David posted above: the podcaster/comic Adam Carolla has a joke that goes, “Every burlgar in prison in California is black or Latino; every burglar in an ad for an alarm company looks like he graduated from the University of Sweden.”

    I have no idea what percentage of burglars are of which race. I suspect in towns where most people are white, most burglars are white. And in towns where most are Latino, most burglars follow suit and so on. However, I did find this sentence (which is based on census data and FBI crime statistics): “This data indicates that the arrest rate for blacks for murder was 10 to 15 times as high as for whites, five to six times the rate for whites for sexual assault, eight to nine times as high for robbery, four to five times as high for aggravated assault, and between [u]two to three times as high for burglary[/u].”

  9. Mr Obvious

    A huge increase in burglaries in recent months. Really no fewer officers on the street. Hmmmmm. What has been going on in the criminal justice system in recent months? Oh yeah, the release of thousands of prisoners around the state. Unintended consequences. Thank you AB 109 and it’s supporters.

  10. Superfluous Man

    [quote]On a good night we have five or six police officers in apparently antiquated vehicles trying to protect our city from real crimes.[/quote]

    They don’t [i]appear[/i] antiquated to me. Are DPD’s patrol vehicles ill-equipped?

  11. David M. Greenwald

    Mr. Obvious:

    There are a lot of problems with your statement.

    First, it ignores that the state was mandated by federal courts to reduce prison population.

    Second, anyone released from prison, would have been released at some point in time. They are getting out earlier, but that point suggests if this is driven by AB 109, it will be a short-term blip.

    Third, until we know who is committing the crimes, it is hard to evaluate if AB 109 is behind it. We have had crime waves in past years focusing on catalytic converters, so this isn’t that unusual.

    Fourth, how many will actually be released or have been released rather than transferred to county custody?

    In short, I think you are being very premature in assessing any causation to this.

  12. Superfluous Man

    Mr. O

    [quote]Oh yeah, the release of thousands of prisoners around the state. Unintended consequences. Thank you AB 109 and it’s supporters. [/quote]

    How many inmates have been released to and are living in Davis? Correlation does not mean causation. But I’d be interested to read the statistics and discover if burglaries have gone up in other municipalities post-AB 109.

  13. David M. Greenwald

    “They don’t [i]appear[/i] antiquated to me. Are DPD’s patrol vehicles ill-equipped?”

    I was merely referring to those using the type of cars that I rode in – which are antiquated. But if the city doesn’t have the funds to replace vehicles, then this could become a larger problem.

  14. Superfluous Man

    DMG,

    [quote]I think there is a general belief that Davis is an easy mark. Quick access to the freeway. Relatively few elaborate security systems[/quote]

    I think proximity to freeway access is a factor. However, W. Sac and Woodland have similarly convenient access. I don’t know if Yolo County’s other two largest cities have fewer security systems, are more likely to be armed, etc.

    There could be complacency in Davis, whereas the other two are more vigilant.

  15. AdRemmer

    SM noted: [quote]How many inmates have been released to and are living in Davis?[/quote]

    On what basis do you opine that Davis crime is primarily committed by locals?

  16. AdRemmer

    DG – [quote]They are getting out earlier, but that point suggests if this is driven by AB 109, it will be a short-term blip. [/quote]

    Sorry DG —-> Pure unsubstantiated speculation.

  17. Dr. Wu

    There has been a notable increase in burglaries in many parts of town. Burglars have been ringing doorbells and then if no one answers breaking in–again this is in broad daylight. So I share David’s concern here.

    Some years ago a neighbor of mine had his car broken into in his driveway and the Davis police did not even want to fill out the paperwork. So I certainly could see a shift from firefighters (who imho are underworked and overpaid though that is not a disparagement on anyone in the dept.)

    Some neighborhoods in Davis are also considering forming neighborhood watches (after what happened in Florida perhaps that would also alarm some folks though I don’t see that happening in Davis).

  18. Rifkin

    [i]”… the Davis police did not even want to fill out the paperwork.”[/i]

    The City has drastically cut back the non-sworn staff of the DPD over the last few years. As such, police officers have to spend a lot more time now filling out routine paperwork which formerly was done by office staff. I wonder if maybe the City could train firefighters to fill out these forms when they are not busy watching Brady Bunch reruns?

  19. Rifkin

    [i]”… after what happened in Florida …”[/i]

    Only two people really know what caused that homicide. And one of them is dead. [quote]“There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved. Just to think we can’t walk down our own streets, how humiliating. ” [b]–Jesse Jackson, 27 November 1993 [/b] [/quote] Seems like when it is convenient, the Reverend Jackson changes his tune: [quote]“Trayvon Martin is a martyr. Martyrs have power. If (this murder) is a moment, we go home. If it’s a movement, we go to war. Movements are made of serious substance. … There is power in the blood of the innocent.” [b]–Jesse Jackson, 24 March, 2012[/b][/quote] I wonder if the Reverend Jackson would have shot Trayvon out of fear, if that is the reason that the Peruvian guy did?*

    *I don’t know if fear was the motivation or this guy is just a cold-blooded killer or it was self-defense (as the Peruvian guy’s lawyer says it was) or it was the hoodie, as Geraldo Rivera thinks.

  20. JustSaying

    [quote]“Relatively few police on duty, and many of them in the core responding to parties calls and calls about drunk college students.”[/quote]Rich avoided adding to this by not reporting, but I’m wondering what the statistics are that justify this statement about city police workload. David, have you written about the percentages before?

  21. JustSaying

    On the other hand, I was unloading my car recently after arriving home at 1 a.m. when I hear a voice from outside my house. At first, a little startled then reassured when got to the hall to see one of Davis’ finest standing at my open front door. When satisfied that I wasn’t loading things [u]into[/u] my open car trunk from the house, he returned to his apparently antiquated vehicle to keep looking for criminals.

  22. Superfluous Man

    DMG,

    [quote]I was merely referring to those using the type of cars that I rode in – which are antiquated. But if the city doesn’t have the funds to replace vehicles, then this could become a larger problem. [/quote]

    What do you think the DPD patrol vehicles you rode in were lacking?

    AR,

    [quote]On what basis do you opine that Davis crime is primarily committed by locals? [/quote]

    I didn’t state that it is.

  23. Superfluous Man

    DMG,

    [quote]Also the other cities have a higher crime rate than Davis. [/quote]

    Therefor, Davis residents are less safety-cautious with respect to their homes?

  24. David M. Greenwald

    “What do you think the DPD patrol vehicles you rode in were lacking?”

    No computers, which was a problem, it meant he had to called into dispatch rather than pull it up on his own computer, also he had no idea where the other cars were.

    No cage, so could he couldn’t arrest people and transport them.

    I recall other problems as well.

  25. JustSaying

    This is a weird bit of business about Davis police vehicles. Was anything said about the rest of the fleet? Was your escort a full-fledged cop or a volunteer who dealt with distinguished visitors? Maybe he wasn’t authorized to do anything other than drive you around for the educational/PR benefit.

    It would be troublesome if all of our police officers are equipped with such old technology and so poorly protected from those they arrest. Of course, that was your point. I’d be troubled if your driver wasn’t equipped to protect the [i]Vanguard[/i] editor in case of attack, as well.

  26. David M. Greenwald

    It was a full-fledged officer. Not a volunteer. I was caught off guard at first too, but you see at least one of those cars, they are white, around town.

  27. Superfluous Man

    DMG,

    [quote]It was a full-fledged officer. Not a volunteer. I was caught off guard at first too, but you see at least one of those cars, they are white, around town. [/quote]

    I know which vehicle you’re referring to. I believe it may not be one of DPD’s standard patrol vehicles (black and white). Not all law enforcement vehicles are equipped with the equipment a patrol vehicle should have (cage and computer). Were the black and white patrol vehicles similarly ill-equipped?

  28. Robin W

    Glad to hear that someone had a positive experience with one of Davis’s finest recently. I suspect that mean you live near downtown or in an area with lots of students. I certainly never see any police patrolling in my non-student residential area, which is one of the areas that has had recent burglaries and was cased last week by the suspect “AT&T salespeople.” The only places I see Davis police during the day (when these burglaries are taking place) are giving grief to parents who are trying to pick their kids up after school, harassing teens who are hanging out in Central Park, and waiting to give tickets at speed traps.

    What does it take for the Chief to make sure some officers are assigned to patrols of residential neighborhoods when we are having a huge increase in daytime burglaries? I do not believe this is a question of needing more staff or more funding. It is a matter of how you assign your personnel. It is wholly unacceptable not to have routine patrols in the areas where burglaries have been taking place. No wonder the criminals view Davis residential areas as easy targets. There is zero police presence.

  29. Rifkin

    [i]”So we are sending out firefighters to rescue cats (metaphorically) while our police don’t have proper equipment. hmmm who has the better union?”[/i]

    The City bought a new fire truck last year for $506,330 ([url]http://cityofdavis.org/meetings/councilpackets/20110111/05C Purchase Type-1 Urban Structure Fire Apparatus.pdf[/url]). The one it replaced was 20 years old. I don’t know if the prior truck was worn out or not. But I am sure that if our fire chief would use some common sense–sending two men to medical calls in a Prius and keeping the gigantic fire truck back at the station for those calls–the firefighting vehicles we buy would last much longer than they do now, given how often they are racing around town to help out with medical aid. This tactic not only wears down these expensive trucks, but it endangers all drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists along their route, and it costs the city a lot in fuel and road damage.

  30. Mr.Toad

    Why do you always bring race into these things Rich? Does it matter what race a burglar is?If a white person or a black person breaks into your house is there a difference?

    Your obsession with race on everything from the hiring of firefighters to burglars is sad.

  31. rusty49

    So David, with outdated equipment and not enough manpower as you say in your article how would the DPD be able to take over calls to the campus if the UC Police Dept. was disbanded or unarmed? You can’t have it both ways.

  32. rusty49

    The other day I was stopped by a cop on my daily run with my dog as he thought I didn’t have a leash. He came rushing over from a side street and was obviously staked out trying to catch those evil people with dogs not on a leash. My first thought was are you kidding? Go out and catch a real criminal as we have enough burlaries going on to keep you busy.

  33. E Roberts Musser

    1) Crime usually increases during an economic downturn.
    2) AB 109 and the release of prisoners prematurely MAY also be a cause for the uptick in crime.
    3) Another contributing factor is that Davis sees itself as a “safe” place to live, so often people do not take proper precautions.
    4) The University itself is a crime magnet, as most college campuses are, since students are perceived as naive and easy pickings for criminals.

    People need to wise up and take proper precautions. Lock your doors; get a dog or burglar alarm; don’t wander around late at night; try to travel in pairs or with a dog rather than alone when walking at night.

  34. Rifkin

    [i]”Your obsession with race on everything from the hiring of firefighters to burglars is sad.”[/i]

    I do so in order to let you falsely charge me with being a racist, Toad. You seem to be such a sad sack. My contribution is to improve your self-esteem by thinking you are a better person than I am.

  35. Rifkin

    [i]”1) Crime usually increases during an economic downturn.”[/i]

    Economists have studied the question as to whether higher rates of unemployment increase the rates of property crimes and or violent crimes. Most have concluded there is a small corellation, though many say there is not one (when you look at a longer time horizon).

    Last year, the Congressional Research Service published a broad survey of the literature on the topic of “Economic Downturns and Crime ([url]http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40726.pdf[/url]).” Two graphs in that report (see page 6 and page 7) show crime + economy rates. It looks to me like the recessions played no part in rising crime or falling crime.

    From the mid-1960s to the early 1990s, crime was increasing most of that time, and during three of the four recessions which the U.S. experienced in that period, the crime rates went up. (In the severe 1980-82 recession, crime rates dropped.) In the period since 1992, each time we have had a recession, including the current recession, crime rates have fallen. However, the drops in the crime rates seem to simply be in line with the overall trend of crime rates falling since 1992. There does not appear to be any difference when looking at property crimes (like burglary) or violent crimes.

  36. David M. Greenwald

    “So David, with outdated equipment and not enough manpower as you say in your article how would the DPD be able to take over calls to the campus if the UC Police Dept. was disbanded or unarmed? You can’t have it both ways.”

    Obviously such a scenario would require UC to share costs.

  37. preston

    DPD has raised patrols in the areas that have been hit more frequently, I know, I live in one, and my wife had the pleasure to hit on won of Davis’ finest after breakfast this morning.
    As far as the Patrol car goes, that is a vehicle expressly set up for traffic patrol. It usually sits in the parking lot while the motorcycles are being used. Also, David, do you think that maybe, because it was you, they used their worst vehicle, kinda like “look how poor we are”. Also, if you ride your bike down 5th Street and look into the old DWR pit where the Parks Dept. is, you will see about 5 new patrol cars waiting to be put into service.
    As far as the “crime wave” goes, most of the break ins follow the same M.O. so I speculate that it is mos probably one person(s), who have become very active do to their early success. Now that they have been seen and the patrols have increased I bet the break ins slow down.

  38. nvn8v

    [quote name="rifkin"]I could be wrong–and I will defer to you, David, if you know I am–but I think we have 14 firefighters (which includes fire captains) on duty 24/7. The West Davis and South Davis stations each have one crew (4 each), while the Central Davis station (I think) has 6 people on duty (or maybe 8?). I know when a call comes into the C. Davis station, they always send out two trucks. I seem to recall that one is fully loaded (4) and the other has 2 people. But, again, I defer to you on this …
    [/quote] DFD’s downtown station 31 can have up to 7 FFs including the captain on duty. Minimum staffing for all city stations is 4. The other 3 ffs at st 31 are used to fill vacancies at other stations or if all the spots are filled that day to staff the rescue unit. Regardless of staffing level engine and rescue 31 respond together with a total crew of 4-7.

    One thing that would be interesting is statistics regarding daily UCDPD campus staffing levels and # of incidents per year that UCDPD assists DPD with calls in the city and vice versa.

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