In the wake of the brutal double murder over the weekend, we have little choice but to revisit the question as to whether or not Davis residents should be alarmed. Early this year, in the first month of the year, there were 41 reported residential burglaries in the city of Davis.
To be clear, the latest from police is that they are not sure of the motive for the killing. There were reportedly signs of forced entry, that might lead to a theory that this was a burglary gone bad. But the police also reported that the house did not appear ransacked – and while that doesn’t negate the possibility of the burglary gone bad, it muddies the water a bit.
Officially, the police are considering all leads and all possible motives. They have help from the FBI, the Yolo County DA’s Office, the Coroner’s Office, West Sacramento Police and the California Department of Justice.
This is important, because the City of Davis Police are a relatively small department and it seems more likely than not that the suspect is from out of town.
The police believed that they had a break in the case after neighbors saw a suspicious looking man near the home of the deceased. When they approached him, he fled by car, leading to a high speed chase by Davis Police, CHP Officers and Vacaville Police onto I-80 before they arrested him in Fairfield.
While the man is in custody, police say he is neither a person of interest nor a suspect in the killing.
In addition to the recent murder, Davis had the rash of burglaries and a number of high-profile assault cases, including the allegedly hate-motivated attack on Mikey Partida, a young woman who was forced back into her home and sexually assaulted, and another young woman accosted on the street.
The alarming aspect of the burglaries were that many of them occurred while residents were either at home or sleeping. It does not take much imagination to wonder what would have happened had the resident stumbled upon the burglar.
The police have consistently warned the public, “The Davis Police Department continues to urge people to take these preventative measures to lessen the chances of being victimized: Make sure all windows, doors, garages, side gates, etc. are closed and locked when not in use. It is also suggested, keeping doors locked when you are home.”
They wrote: “This point has been repeated many times before, but DPD continues to see a high number of unlocked entry points among our residential burglaries.”
The police added, “Report any suspicious activity such as persons walking or driving up and down your street, checking for unlocked doors and/or looking in windows, backyards or vehicles. Vehicles ‘cruising’ your neighborhood at very slow speeds or sitting in a vehicle for extended periods can also be signs of suspicious activity.”
A month ago, the data did not suggest a crime wave. The police at that time believed that it “appears the South Davis burglaries have come to a stop.”
They said that they made some unrelated arrests and believed that they got some of those involved in these burglaries.
Police officials were concerned about some of the reports, but they believe it is too soon to see what is really going on. In general, they believe that things are no better or worse off than they have ever been in Davis.
Davis, while having a relatively low incidence of crime, particularly violent crime, has always been an inviting target. The city has relatively few on-duty police officers, and many of them are preoccupied at critical times by party and nuisance calls. The city, particularly South Davis, has easy on and off access to I-80. And many residents are complacent and do not lock their doors or close their windows.
It will be interesting to see how the public reacts to this killing. The victims were long-time residents, well known in the community. They touched a number of different portions of the community, from their activity with the Davis Unitarian Universalist Church, Mr. Northup’s involvement with music, and his career as a defense attorney.
At the same time, the city is facing a budget crisis. They have a current $2 million deficit that will have to be closed, most likely through budget cuts this year.
That picture gets worse in the next five years as, last week, City Manager Steve Pinkerton projected the budget deficit to grow to $6 million per year.
The culprit is twofold. First, the city has failed to invest in infrastructure to the point where roadways are badly in need of repair and the longer the city delays, the more expensive those repairs will be. The council did not set the policy just yet, but it is possible the city will be forced to dump $25 to $30 million into roads in a one-time investment and then between $3 and $8 million on an ongoing basis.
At the same time, the city recently had the voters approve their surface water project. The accompanying rate increases will push city annual fees for their own water to $3 million by 2018.
Already, concerned residents were looking in some neighborhoods to form neighborhood watch programs. That movement is likely to increase, as reality sets in that the city is simply not in a position to add to the number of police officers that can patrol the streets.
The reality of the budget and the city’s failure to deal with high employee compensation, unfunded liabilities and deferred maintenance to critical infrastructure is that the city lacks the funding and budget flexibility to deal with emergencies of this nature.
Fortunately, crimes like this remain rare in Davis. Prior to these two killings, it was fall of 2011 when the last murder had occurred. Before that, it was 2004.
Still, this serves as a cautionary tale that carries with it deadly consequences.
—David M. Greenwald reporting