Commentary: How Alarmed Should Davis Residents Be in Wake of Brutal Stabbings?



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


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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38 thoughts on “Commentary: How Alarmed Should Davis Residents Be in Wake of Brutal Stabbings?”

  1. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > Early this year, in the first month of the year,
    > there were 41 reported residential burglaries
    > in the City of Davis.

    When I think of “residential burglary” I think of the actual break in to a home (or apartment or condo).

    Did Davis have 41 actual break ins in a month (or does a bike taken from a side yard or an iPod from an unlocked car count at a “burglary”?)

  2. David M. Greenwald

    Ive seen the DA try to prosecute a break in into a storage room that was not attached to the home as a first degree burglary, any unlawful entry into someone’s property is technically a burglary, but it does have to be an entry not breaking into a car, that would be a theft.

  3. kristineg

    I live in South Davis, and our house got robbed last month. The thief didn’t ransack our house – in fact, it took us several days to realize that we’d been robbed because nothing was out of place. Very chilling to think that it’s possibly the same person. What a terrible thing to have happen to these poor people.

  4. dlemongello

    kristenig, that seems like very valuable information, showing that the fact the place was not a mess does not mean nothing was taken. If it takes the owners days to realize something is missing, the burglar may be selective and tidy. Therefore, what may be missing is elusive to anyone not familiar with the original contents.

  5. dlemongello

    What I realize I am a bit alarmed about is the fact that I don’t seem to get alarmed when rationally I should be. I more feel sorry for the victims and don’t seem in touch with the possibility that anyone, including myself, could be next. My sister is the complete opposite, she becomes what I consider practically paranoid.

  6. jimt

    In a previous thread on this double-murder, someone speculated that it sounded like the burglars may have been surprised by the presence of the older couple (and vice-versa!); and things took a downhill turn.

    So if you hear strange noises in your home in the middle of the night; make sure you have your shotgun in hand before investigating! (this doesn’t mean be trigger happy; but show you’ll defend yourself and your home).
    Once word gets out that Davis homeowners will defend with shotguns; I reckon the burglary/home invasion rate will drop off pretty quickly.

  7. rusty49

    Thank you jimt, but you’ll find some of the liberals on here will disagree. They feel the elderly are in more danger owning a gun and being able to defend themselves and should just keep from escalating the incident and leave themselves to the whims of the intruder.

  8. Davis Progressive

    the police said almost all of the break ins and burglaries were through unlocked doors and open windows, so wouldn’t that be the logical first step. i’ve lived here since the early 80s and have never had a break in, i also lock my doors. why would i get a gun?

  9. rusty49

    Because when that once in a lifetime breakin occurs and you’re confronted with a possible life or death circumstance you’re going to pray that you had a gun and not leave your life in the mercy of a crook.

  10. Davis Progressive

    so on the off chance that someone breaks in and the even more remote chance i can do something about it, i should own a gun and create a much higher risk to those around me? doesn’t make any sense to me.

  11. Mr.Toad

    “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.”

    I can’t believe you can talk about this horrific crime and the budget at the same time. Are you serious?

  12. rusty49

    Like no house has ever been broken into that was locked up? You can either be the lion or the sheep, I don’t know why liberals choose to always be the sheep.

  13. rusty49

    I don’t care if it was one in a thousand, that’s a chance that’s not worth taking if one is capable of defending themselves with a firearm.

  14. Mr.Toad

    “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.”

    Right now, people are trying to come to terms with what happened and why? They want to know how to protect themselves and their families in their homes. Please David, you really want to raise these other issues now? Can you give it a rest? In my humble opinion, now is a time for mourning not arguing over budget priorities. To me it feels tone deaf to bring up finances right now as does all this macho talk about guns. I’m sure many families have discussed what needs to be done to protect themselves in their homes but they don’t need a debate about gun control or pensions right now.

  15. David M. Greenwald

    No, I can;t give it a rest, because people in addition to coming to terms and mourning a tragic death are going to look for policy solutions and this is exactly what I have been worried about for a long time now.

  16. rusty49

    I agree with David. Our limited funds have to be distributed more wisely than just the current gravy train we’re giving some of our public employees at the expense of our safety.

  17. Davis Progressive

    mr. toad, i’d suggest you’re being stunningly shortsighted here. and i’d add, who died and make you moral arbiter of the universe. these are issues that don’t go away just because there is tragedy in our midst.

  18. B. Nice

    As a note while some of the recent robberies did occur when people were home the perpetrator(s) fled the scene instead of confronting home owner.

  19. medwoman

    Mr. Toad

    What do you see as the appropriate amount of time to wait after a tragedy before related topics can be discussed without you considering it ” exploitative ” ? I suspect that the amount of time deemed appropriate would probably vary widely within our community.

  20. jimt

    I noticed a lot of comments to the weighing the finite risks of having a gun around the house vs the risk of a break-in (which do occur even in locked houses). Of course if you live alone or just with your spouse (or significant other) there is very little risk to self of a gun in the house; with children need to take measures to secure the weapon.

    But I’ve seen no mention of the value to the community of having some lawful and sane residents in the neighborhood that have guns. So even if you don’t have a gun; you are conferred some measure of protection by members of the community that do have guns; since the criminals don’t know who does and who does not have firearms. Some measure of gratitude is due to those sane and law-abiding neighbors who have firearms; for they act as a crime deterrent for all residences in the neighborhood. And if you own a firearm and at some point are in the position of defending yourself against a break-in; not only have you protected your own ass and ass-ets; but those of your neighbors as well, as news gets out about holding an intruder in the neighborhood at bay with a firearm. So the deterrence provided by owning a firearm (assuming you are sane law-abiding resident) not only can help safeguard your own sorry self; but helps protect your local community as well. To me makes sense especially for some single residents or empty-nester couples to own a firearm; not only for their own protection, but to aid in protection of the community by keeping the potential criminal element guessing and shying away from ‘risky’ neighborhoods (i.e. those neighborhoods known by reputation to have many residents that own firearms).

  21. medwoman


    This however is a two edged sword. The presence of a gun in a home regardless of the occupants does increase the risk of accidental injury to others in the home or those who who may be visiting. Recent case in point where at a social gathering a legal owner of a handgun had it out showing iit toi a friend and sets it down momentarily. The gun is picked up by a visiting four year old who accidentally discharges it killing the gun owners wife.
    Not knowing who owns a gun in my neighborhood may deter criminals, but also prevents me from knowing which house I should not let my children visit. Now, I have to depend upon the honesty and willingness of my neighbor share the information that he has a gun to adequately protect my own children from accidental gun injury.

    Thiis I agree is a missing piece of the discussion. If the issue is injury risk reduction, which do you consider more risky, injury to yourself from a stranger break in, or injury through accident, domestic violence, or suicide ? I think that it is the difference in the answer to this question that drives much of the debate.

  22. biddlin

    “But I’ve seen no mention of the value to the community of having some [u]lawful and sane [/u]residents in the neighborhood that have guns.”
    That’s because there is none.
    In my Sacramento neighbourhood , extremely modest housing and income by Davis standards, we have had a number of “home defense ” shootings, including a couple where the “lawful and sane” gun owner shot an innocent bystander, in one instance killing a man who was trying to stop a theft, [b]with no apparent decrease in burglaries or home invasions.[/b] The ability of untrained or unpracticed persons to safely use firearms is demonstrably poor. For the elderly, physical issues of diminished visual acuity and grip strength increase the difficulty and danger of using a firearm. The makers of those firearms and ammunition know that fear mongering is an effective sales tool and spare no expense lobbying congress to keep gun sales unfettered by background checks and licensing qualifications. If you don’t have one, get a dog . Keep your doors locked and report suspicious activities when you see or hear them . Biddlin ;>)/

  23. Mr.Toad

    Who died? Oliver Northup and Claudia Maupin. Who made me the moral authority for the community? Nobody, I simply wrote how I felt. How long would I wait for this kind of crass discussion linking roads, pensions and budgets to a murder? Even if I felt it needed to be made I’d wait a week or more until after the services.

  24. Davis Progressive

    nobody linked pensions and budgets to a murder, david linked policy decisions stemming from the murder to limitations imposed by a budget hole.

  25. jimt


    Point taken, I agree with the two sides of the risk coin; as also biddlin’s example of an innocent bystander shot. However innocent bystanders are also sometimes accidentally shot by police, and nobody suggests disarming police.

    Of course we would like the most responsible and competent members of the community to be the ones that have firearms for protection. However I agree that it is problematic to ensure that it is mainly only this most responsible and competent subgroup does have the firearms.

    Biddlin, in addition to the accidental shooting of innocent bystander, were some of the home defense efforts successful? Would be interesting to hear more details, such as were the intruders armed or not, did they threaten the resident, and if the resident first attempted to just hold them at bay with firearm (and then perhaps fired if still being threatened) or if homeowner fired first and asked questions later?

    In summary I agree that there are risks either way an intrusion into your house is handled; can be difficult to ascertain risk trade-offs not only to self but to greater community. For me the deciding factor is largely one of temperament; to what degree you are going to take responsibility and control of your life and your immediate environment in those crucial minutes within which police have yet to arrive; and to what degree you play a more passive role and let the intruder have his way; and hope the police might be able to arrive in time to take charge. It’s a matter of temperament. I’m glad that there are some people around that will take direct responsibility for protecting themselves and their homes; but do concede I wish they were mainly only the most responsible and competent among us!

  26. biddlin

    How much collateral damage and loss of innocent life is acceptable to you, jimt? I have made my house less desirable to burglars without the use of guns . Don’t shoot yourself or a loved one .
    Biddlin ;>)/

  27. jimt

    How willing are you to leave yourself and family at the mercy of intruders that might break into your house; even in locked? Don’t get shot or stabbed (like recent double murder)by an intruder.

    There is an actual tradeoff of risks here; its not one side or another–just because you yourself may be peaceful and nonmalevolent does not mean that all intruders are this way.

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