It seems to be that in every major civilization, the older generation believes that the younger generation’s moral depravity will lead to the downfall of civilization. For the most part, that doesn’t really come to pass, although civilizations have of course risen and fallen throughout history.
While the recent murder at KetMoRee has created a lot of consternation in this community, for the most part level heads have prevailed. On the Vanguard, we initially saw some knee-jerk reactions such as the idea of shutting down bars or alcohol sales at 11 pm and/or banning people with facial tattoos.
The data really doesn’t support these kinds of approaches. In fact, when I requested the data for KetMoRee, I expected to find a lot of violent incidents. And yet, over the course of 525 calls for services, it was a very small minority that were serious felonies. A very small minority. The fact is, those felonies would probably have occurred somewhere else if KetMo were shutdown.
Can we close down bars at 11 pm? Perhaps, but the real question is, “Should we?” One of the more interesting comments from the Assistant Chief was that more bars is actually better than fewer bars – because (1) it allows people to get inside off the street to a place where there is more security, and (2) it relieves their stress and anxiety. The conclusion I draw from the Assistant Chief’s comment is that an 11 pm shut down time would be counterproductive.
Thanks to other initiatives, drinking is already down among UC Davis students. However, I remember staying in Minneapolis when I was in my early 20s, and they had an early alcohol closure. I remember trying to drive to St. Paul where bars were open an hour later.
I could just imagine the students in Davis driving to Woodland, West Sacramento or Sacramento to do their drinking and then driving back on the freeway to get home. It’s a recipe for more traffic accidents. Besides, do we really want to become a completely college student unfriendly community in the vain hopes of insulating ourselves in some sort of bubble?
It is easy to blame the late night drinking problems on outsiders – it is harder to pinpoint what an outsider looks like. The perpetrators of this alleged murder were indeed from Vacaville, but many college students have have driver’s licenses from all over the state and perhaps further. Is it practical to require a college ID to go along with the driver’s license for an outsider to drink here? Do we want to do that even if we could?
One of the unfortunate things we learned in the last year is that we don’t need to go to outsiders to find dangerous guns and potentially dangerous people. At a public meeting last November, Assistant Chief Pytel talked about the array of weapons found on individuals in this community. He used it to justify the need for an MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle), but I use it to make the point that Davis is no longer a little bubble insulated from the rest of the world.
The good news is that our crime rate is still far below that of West Sacramento and Woodland. Last year, Assistant Chief Pytel argued that the dynamics of policing have changed since 2010. Felony arrests are up 105 percent. Drug related arrests are up 163 percent since 2010. Robberies are up 27 percent since 2010.
“So we’re dealing with more and more crime,” he said.
This week he told me that the calls for service have not suddenly doubled or tripled downtown – it’s always been busy. However, the nature of these incidents has escalated somewhat in the last few years.
“We’ve taken more guns and knives off of people arrested in fights downtown,” he said. “We have kind of seen a change regarding escalation in weapons and violence over the past couple of years.”
In addition, I don’t think we should be laying the blame here solely on the doorstep of KetMoRee. They are definitely a higher call for service area (along with G Street Pub and Tres Hermanas), but, as Assistant Chief Pytel said, “I can say that all of the officers have told me that the staff that works at KetMoRee does a good job of dealing with the crowds, they handle the incidents inside their bar very well, they call the police anytime they feel it’s necessary.”
He added, “We actually tell them to call the police anytime they see anything that even could potentially be a problem.” He said, “They do call frequently, even before they see problems, just to make sure that nothing actually comes up.”
The point, he said, is that when you look at the high volume of calls for service, some of that volume is because “we’re telling them to call and they are not necessarily things that they would have called on their own volition.”
Nonetheless Darren Pytel added, “We are still with a lot of problems there.”
So is there a solution?
Maybe there isn’t a solution. Maybe we simply need to budget a couple of extra patrol officers, as was discussed back in June during the last budget cycle.
Back in May and June, the city was looking into an item about the potential acquisition of a non-MRAP police protective vehicle (PPV). The projected price range for such a vehicle was said to be between $175,000 to $400,000.
But maybe that is not our biggest need. Back then, Mr. Pytel suggested that putting more people onto the SAFE (Special Assignment and Focused Enforcement) Team, which involves identifying highly prolific criminals, determining with whom they are hanging out, and targeting arrests around those networks – which helps to wipe out part of the problem. Crime goes down in Davis when highly prolific people are nabbed – but it goes back up as they are replaced by other individuals.
While the council had discussed a new School Resource Officer, Darren Pytel didn’t believe that was the biggest need for the city police either.
Instead, hiring about five extra regular patrol officers, which would add about $800,000 to the city budget, would allow the police to have some additional bodies available to the SAFE Team and some extra bodies to patrol the downtown. That might be a better way to go than simply to take it out on KetMoRee and other popular bars.
There was some talk that perhaps the downtown establishments might flip for that bill, but from my perspective looking into all of this, the bars are more likely a symptom, than a cause, of the changing crime dynamics.
It is better when calmer heads prevail and, in this case, a murder may simply be an isolated tragedy rather than a cause for alarm.
—David M. Greenwald reporting