Commentary: Slow Down on the Assessments of Picnic Day

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PND-2

Major media figures, as well as some public officials in this town, appear to have a clear agenda about Picnic Day, which would be fine if we actually had the final data.  But the Vanguard, in making a records request from the Davis Police Department was told that with the police chief and their records analyst taking the week off, a more comprehensive report is not even due out until next week.

What that suggests to me is perhaps we have to hold off making major pronouncements until we get all the data.  That of course has not and will not stop certain columnists from proclaiming “Picnic Day arrest numbers are clearly unacceptable.”

They write, “Things really weren’t any better this year than last, with 53 arrests for public stupidity (drunkenness, fighting, pulling knives, resisting, underage possession) compared to 54 a year ago.”

Of course, it misses a more interesting point, that things are markedly better than they were two years ago – last year was not the baseline year, it was the improvement year after the disastrous 2010.

Until we actually get the final data, it is difficult to drill into the numbers.

Davis Enterprise columnist Bob Dunning wrote on Wednesday, “While there will always be a few arrests anytime people get together and alcohol is involved, the Picnic Day numbers are clearly unacceptable … despite a massive and highly visible police presence, plus intense preparation and weeks of ‘public education’ and warnings, many folks were simply unwilling or unable to behave.”

He adds, “When knives get involved in fights, I don’t know how many times you can roll those dice before something truly tragic happens.”

There are specific questions I would like to know before rendering any kind of verdict.  But for all of the talk about knives and Tasering, it is important to recognize that of the 53 arrests, only three of them were for felonies.

Stop and think about that for a second.  For all of the complaining, only three of the 53 arrests were for serious crimes.

We have a number of 53 arrests and over 100 citations this year.  The number of arrests were about the same as last year, but the citations are about half of what they were last year.  What we don’t have is an actual baseline.  What are the number of arrests on a typical Saturday?

If the typical number of arrests are 10, then we have a five-fold increase.  If however, they are closer to 20 or 30, we are looking at a doubling.  A doubling, given how many more police were in town, should not be all that surprising and perhaps, given the zero tolerance policies, not all that alarming.

But the Davis Police Department right now does not have that information and therefore we have no comparison point, and without that we have little perspective for analysis.

Moreover, there is this notion that these arrests occurred “despite” the massive and visible police presence.  I would argue that a lot of these arrests occurred because of the massive police presence.

I could not be out there this year, but from everything that was told to me both by those who were out there and the statistics, this year was similar to last year.  Last year, a lot of people who were not really causing problems were arrested.  Why is that?  Because there were so many police, that they did not know what to do.

Last year I personally witnessed large numbers of police hanging out on the corner of downtown streets waiting for something to happen.  They were bored.  A couple was having a fight and ten of them approached a very stunned male.  I saw numerous people taken to the ground, most of them by out of town police officers who were looking for something – anything to do.

So, while some will argue the number of 53 is too low, I would suggest that it may actually be too high and that, on a normal day, a lot of those would never have been arrested even if they had encountered police.  Remember, they were calling this zero tolerance.

Speaking of problems, we have the Tasering case.  This should actually be a concern to all of us because it was effected by the Department of Fish and Game.

Wrote Bob Dunning, “Glad to see Fish and Game was called in to help keep the peace … I mean, here you have folks who are used to dealing with small-mouth bass and large-mouth bass and now were forced to deal with loud-mouth drunks … fortunately, they were up to the task …”

Whether they were actually up to the task is actually a matter that should be very much in question at this time.

Davis Enterprise reporter Lauren Keene reported, “A particularly ugly scene played out shortly after 8 p.m. on Third Street between F and G streets, where witnesses said a man was Tasered during an alcohol-fueled confrontation with authorities over his open container of beer on a public sidewalk.”

Police experts are likely raising their eyebrows on this one.  They would argue that the Department of Fish and game has very little experience with the type of urban environment and confrontation they experienced.

At the very least we should be looking into this incident more closely as there is a good possibility that the Tasering was either unnecessary or the arrest could have been effected more cleanly by a more experienced officer.

That leads us to a larger point, which is that the massive police presence is a two-edged sword.  On the one hand, the last two years it appears to have prevented the problems from 2010.  On the other hand, it brings with it its own problems.

Some are suggesting that all of this means we should ban alcohol sales.  Other have suggested that reaction is over the top.  Let us see what the final data tell us before we leap to conclusions.

—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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30 thoughts on “Commentary: Slow Down on the Assessments of Picnic Day”

  1. 91 Octane

    vanguard: Some are suggesting that all of this means we should ban alcohol sales. Other have suggested that reaction is over the top. Let us see what the final data tell us before we leap to conclusions.

    lol the vanguard already jumped to one of those conclusions in its last article.

  2. medwoman

    Interesting pairing of photographs.

    I am thinking that perhaps they are meant to represent the “two faces” of picnic day. I would like to point out that if the 3 young people pictured on the balcony are over the age of 21 and if this balcony is on private property, then the activity in which they are engaging is as legitimate and legally protected an activity as that pictured on the left even if some of us ( including myself ) do not value it as highly.

    It is also interesting to me that some who would advocate limiting alcohol ( including that which is legal) because of its “safety risk” are the same folks who adamantly argue against prohibition of wood burning despite it’s demonstrated health risks for susceptible individuals and plastic bags despite their demonstrated environmental harm.

    I am not arguing for or against any particular ban here. I would just like to see some consistency of thought process rather than a ” ban only those activities I don’t like, but don’t tell me what to do ” mentality.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]dmg: Stop and think about that for a second. For all of the complaining, only three of the 53 arrests were for serious crimes.

    We have a number of 53 arrests and over 100 citations this year. The number of arrests were about the same as last year, but the citations are about half of what they were last year. What we don’t have is an actual baseline. What are the number of arrests on a typical Saturday?

    If the typical number of arrests are 10, then we have a five-fold increase. If however, they are closer to 20 or 30, we are looking at a doubling. A doubling, given how many more police were in town, should not be all that surprising and perhaps, given the zero tolerance policies, not all that alarming.[/quote]

    Perhaps you are happy that Picnic day merely doubles or triples criminal activity in Davis, but other citizens find this unacceptable. Picnic Day should not be a day to commit crimes, no matter how “unserious” the crime is, but a family-friendy event without a significant increase in criminal activity…

    [quote]dmg: But the Davis Police Department right now does not have that information and therefore we have no comparison point, and without that we have little perspective for analysis.[/quote]

    Perhaps not, but we do have the opinions of Chief Landy Black, who indicated we need to do better. One of the glaring problems appears to be the unlimited sale of alcohol that day/the reputation this event has as a time to “party hardy” with lots of liquor involved. Why not try an alcohol free day, and see if the crime stats decrease? If not, then we know it is not the answer. Frankly, and I’m sorry to say it, but I wonder if suspending Picnic Day (taking a breather) and not having it for a year may not be a better option…

    [quote]dmg: Moreover, there is this notion that these arrests occurred “despite” the massive and visible police presence. I would argue that a lot of these arrests occurred because of the massive police presence.

    I could not be out there this year, but from everything that was told to me both by those who were out there and the statistics, this year was similar to last year. Last year, a lot of people who were not really causing problems were arrested. Why is that? Because there were so many police, that they did not know what to do.[/quote]

    So are you accusing Chief Black of arresting people w/o probable cause – based on someone’s hearsay? Really?

  4. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]dmg: At the very least we should be looking into this incident more closely as there is a good possibility that the Tasering was either unnecessary or the arrest could have been effected more cleanly by a more experienced officer.[/quote]

    And you know this because?

    [quote]medwoman: It is also interesting to me that some who would advocate limiting alcohol ( including that which is legal) because of its “safety risk” are the same folks who adamantly argue against prohibition of wood burning despite it’s demonstrated health risks for susceptible individuals and plastic bags despite their demonstrated environmental harm.

    I am not arguing for or against any particular ban here. I would just like to see some consistency of thought process rather than a ” ban only those activities I don’t like, but don’t tell me what to do ” mentality.[/quote]

    I am advocating for an alcohol free day, but I am against the plastic bag ban and prohibition of wood burning. The issues of all three are completely different IMO…

  5. biddlin

    “ban alcohol sales on picnic day
    it wouldn’t solve the problem but sends a signal “
    Yes, as would mocking the unrighteous drunkards and shunning the providers of demon rum. Have the local pastors condemn the growers of the grapes and grain from the pulpit, if they think it wise to offend some of their most generous parishioners . Of course my suggestions would all be legal and not involve infringement on anyone’s livelihood .

  6. David M. Greenwald

    Elaine:

    I think you misconstrued a number of my comments.

    “Perhaps you are happy that Picnic day merely doubles or triples criminal activity in Davis, but other citizens find this unacceptable. “

    First of all, I would like to know what it does. And then we can all have a discussion as to what we ought to do. Remember, we also probably have two or three times the number of people in this city during picnic day, so we ought to expect more arrests.

    “Picnic Day should not be a day to commit crimes, no matter how “unserious” the crime is, but a family-friendy event without a significant increase in criminal activity… “

    I think to be honest with you, you are living in la la land here, particularly when you recognize there are more people in town and circumstances are different. My understanding is that a lot of families had a lot of fun that day.

    “Perhaps not, but we do have the opinions of Chief Landy Black, who indicated we need to do better. “

    That’s true but Landy Black has his own agendas including wanting more manpower, wanting more laws, etc. I’m not saying he’s wrong about any of those, but only recognizing that he’s not an unbiased observer.

    “If not, then we know it is not the answer. Frankly, and I’m sorry to say it, but I wonder if suspending Picnic Day (taking a breather) and not having it for a year may not be a better option…”

    I just don’t see an objective basis for that view.

    “So are you accusing Chief Black of arresting people w/o probable cause – based on someone’s hearsay? Really? “

    That’s not what I said at all. First of all, my view was not based on hearsay but a comparison to last year where I witnessed arrests first hand. I’m not saying the arrests lacked probable cause, but rather with zero tolerance policies a lot of the people would have been let go with a citation or warning during other parts of the year, but were arrested on picnic day as a means of exerting control. Again, that is what I saw last year. Based on what I heard this year, things were similar.

  7. David M. Greenwald

    “And you know this because? “

    I specifically said we ought to look into the incident more closely and then suggested a good possiblity… nowhere did I say I knew this, hence why it needs further scrutiny.

  8. biddlin

    medwoman-I wish I could tell you how much alcohol fueled mischief I got into with my college marching band (but there are still too many surviving co-conspirators) .;>)/

  9. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Of course my suggestions would all be legal and not involve infringement on anyone’s livelihood . [/quote]

    You didn’t mention your suggestions! I’m all ears…

  10. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I think to be honest with you, you are living in la la land here, particularly when you recognize there are more people in town and circumstances are different. My understanding is that a lot of families had a lot of fun that day. [/quote]

    In case you hadn’t noticed, crime/alcohol related injury during these events is on the rise – remember the two rapes at the Whole Earth Festival; the death last year on picnic day that was alcohol related? It seems to be a TREND (yes I am shouting!) that needs to be turned around…

  11. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]That’s true but Landy Black has his own agendas including wanting more manpower, wanting more laws, etc. I’m not saying he’s wrong about any of those, but only recognizing that he’s not an unbiased observer. [/quote]

    So is the Vanguard an unbiased observer. We all have our biases. However, he is a professional in the field of law enforcement; his men had to deal with those who disobeyed the law; he was there to observe what happened…

  12. David M. Greenwald

    “remember the two rapes at the Whole Earth Festival; the death last year on picnic day that was alcohol related? It seems to be a TREND (yes I am shouting!) that needs to be turned around…”

    Is it a trend or a data point? After all, there were no deaths this year or in 2010.

  13. David M. Greenwald

    “So is the Vanguard an unbiased observer.”

    In all the years and all the articles can you cite a single solitary instance in which the vanguard claimed to be an unbiased observer?

  14. civil discourse

    So Elaine was all for waiting for the Kroll reports and the Reynoso reports, months even, before judging that event.

    Yet, she is ready to pass an ordinance on Picnic Day a few days afterwards?

  15. David Thompson

    The Thursday before Picnic Day I was having lunch at the Taqueria Davis on L Street. Looking out of the window I was astonished at how many groups of young men were buying cases of beer at the store next door. When I went to leave I saw a few of them close up and I think that a number appeared to be quite young but it looked like the older kids had been the buyers of the beer as they were the ones putting their wallets back in their pockets.

    Some things could and should be done and they will have an effect. I support every effort to lower the criminal outcomes.

    David Thompson
    I do expect that any crowd of 100,000 people attending any event will have some level of crime.

  16. David M. Greenwald

    I was told that they estimate about 70,000 ADDITIONAL people in town for Picnic Day. That pretty much doubles the normal population of Davis. We should expect more crime even absent any other activities.

  17. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Yet, she is ready to pass an ordinance on Picnic Day a few days afterwards?[/quote]

    Nope – just willing to consider options for the purposes of discussion. I think that is a far more reasonable position than ruling out options that have the potential for solving the problem…

    Last year before Picnic Day many businesses signed a pledge not to sell alcohol before 11 am. It seems to have worked to some degree, since things were not as bad last year as the year before. However, I agree with Chief Black’s position that we need to do better, and get this event back to a more family-friendly footing…

  18. JustSaying

    David Thompson, the ones who were of age showed up at Costso on Friday afternoon. We’d never seen so many young men at the store, traveling in packs of three or four. Most had about four cases of beer, one case of soda and a couple packages of plastic cups.

    There is no way a ban on beer sales will keep these kids from being prepared to party all of picnic day. However, I’m pleased our restaurants and bars voluntarily agreed to reduce the number of hours they’re selling on Saturday.

  19. medwoman

    “It seems to be a TREND (yes I am shouting!) that needs to be turned around…”

    50 years ago in the town of 2000 that I grew up in, my sisters boyfriend and a couple of other kids were drinking, crashed their car and a couple of them died. 40 years ago, near the same town, my cousin was abducted, raped and killed. These two events were not a “Trend” any more than the instances that you are citing are a “trend”. A “trend” requires rising to statistical significance. While I share your strong desire to have no more of these occurrences, I simply do not believe that what amounts to prohibition is the right response. Nor do I believe that “taking a break from
    picnic Day is warranted. I saw many, many families out enjoying their day. Perhaps those who believe that all of Picnic Day has been ruined have simply chosen not to engage in the positive aspects of it any more.

  20. E Roberts Musser

    [quote] A “trend” requires rising to statistical significance. [/quote]

    Crime on Pinic Day, in so far as I am aware, has been rising year after year recently, to the culmination two years ago, which was absolutely disgraceful and needed to be addressed. THe two rapes at the Whole Earth Festival seems to be in keeping w that trend. Both events appear to be magnets for many outsiders to come into town and cause trouble. Also, the previous lax security measures are being taken advantage of and need to be stepped up. Why would you not want to keep students in this town safe?

  21. medwoman

    Elaine

    “Why would you not want to keep students in this town safe?”

    Really ? I think that you probably know, or could infer from my profession, my posts and my presentations before the city council that the safety of individuals and our community is a major priority for me. Where we disagree is what options will best protect all involved. A legal use of alcohol ban has another name, “prohibition” which iwas hardly effective in the past.

    ” to the culmination two years ago”
    Agreed, two years ago was absolutely disgraceful. But as someone who attended many events at the 2011 and 2012 Picnic Days including both on campus and downtown events, both in the day and evening hours, they were much improved. Surely improvement is exactly what we should be working toward.

  22. JusticeForJaneDoe

    When it comes to the number of rapes at “Picnic Day” I do not believe that the “data” you were awaiting from the police department will have given you any worthwhile “comparison point”. Until the issue of rape is properly addressed “little perspective for analysis” is all one will ever achieve.

    I am the mother of a UC Davis Freshman Student who was raped this year at “Picnic Day”. Due to the fact that she was pulled into the car at the Jack in the box in Davis and taken to the town of Fairfield to be raped, the Campus and City Police feel no need to include this in any of their “data”. They did however, feel the need to have her immediately taken back to the town where she was raped in order to file her report and visit the Emergency Room several blocks away from the house where the rape occurred.

    Through the website I created, (www.justiceforjanedoe.com) as a means of bringing awareness to other potential victims of these predators and as a plea for support, I have been notified of several more rapes this year and in years passed. A young girl in particular was a UC Davis Freshman when she was raped at last years “Picnic Day”. She understandably hadn’t the astronomical strength one needs in this society to report the rape. She went back home, tried to fulfill her educational dreams at SDSU for a short period, and has now resolved to grooming horses while she tries desperately to erase the terrors of “Picnic Day” 2011 from her mind.

    How does one “work towards improvements” when, without acknowledgement, life altering assaults linger in the midst of “Picnic Day”?

  23. JusticeForJaneDoe

    Lip service is all I believe many of these discussions to be. Awareness (especially to young new students away from home for the first time) and added security are the actions that should be taken. I can understand the love for and the need to preserve the long standing tradition of “Picnic Day”. What I cannot understand is how brilliant people who can run a college and run a city are still, after years, discussing the terrible troubles of “Picnic Day”.

    “Data” or no “Data” the one constant fact about “Picnic Day” is that there is trouble, serious trouble, and too much of it. Certainly more than your “Data” could ever confirm. Another fact about “Picnic Day” is that due to the lack of action by its organizers this serious trouble is allowed to continue year after year.

    I cannot remember the last time I attended a major event where large amounts of security people in red shirts with “ELITE” across the back weren’t present at every turn for hours prior to and after the event. I cannot remember the last time I heard of major event planners NOT having to budget the funds for added security appropriate for the projected turnout. If you think the presence of added security will take away from the hometown atmosphere of “Picnic Day” I assure you, the serious unreported and reported troubles year after year have already taken care of that. If you think the expenses of appropriate added security is too much then try saving some of the revenue undoubtedly generated at this year’s event and use it to help prevent this issue next year.

    As far as bringing awareness to new students away from home for the first time, the campus should mandate attendance at a lecture on the dangers of “Picnic Day. These dangers should also be brought to the attention of their parents. My child did not leave her dorm on Halloween night because she was aware of the added risk to her safety. My child walked to Jack in the Box on innocent, festive, hometown, traditional, “Picnic Day” night because she was unaware of the added risk to her safety.

    How many more years of lip service are going to be given to this issue before effective action is taken by brilliant people who run a college, who run a city?

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