Davis Police Chief Says Pacifico Is Not a Drug or Crime Hotspot

By David M. Greenwald

Council on Tuesday night agreed to move forward with staff recommendations on Pacifico to take out a new RFP (Request for Proposals) and find new temporary management for the site.  While only five people spoke during public comment, they and others have attempted to provide examples of an ongoing nuisance.

In response to questions from Councilmember Dan Carson, Chief Darren Pytel drilled into the data on calls for service.  He noted that a lot of the “calls for service” are actually not really calls for service.

“A lot of them are extra patrols,” he said.  He said, “One of the comments made a lot of times by a number of different people is that this was ‘no mans land.’

“I’m not exactly sure where that comes from because this complex is entirely within the city limits and entirely within Yolo County and entirely within the jurisdiction of the Davis Police Department, so we are the only primary responding law enforcement agency that handles anything that occurs there,” he continued.

In 2019 they spent a lot more time at the property, but a lot of that was meeting with the residents.  They spent a lot of time evaluating what was going on.

He said, “Tracy (DeWit) and others are trying to say that everything that is occurring in South Davis, everything bad that’s occurring is because of Pacifico.”  He responded, “That’s not really necessarily true—certainly the calls for service at Pacifico don’t bear it out.  Nor are our contacts with actual residents at Pacifico bearing that out.”

He said there were increased calls for service at Pacifico, but “quite honestly we are dealing with increased calls for service all over town.”

He said he doesn’t discount that there is increased crime and disorder, “because there certainly is,” but “it’s really not Pacifico that’s really the root of the problem.

“I’ll be the first one to be concerned about increasing crime rates in town, but I don’t think this complex is the driver of it,” he said.

In response to a question from Councilmember Josh Chapman, Chief Pytel also addressed the issue of drugs.

“We really aren’t getting any calls about overt drug use,” he said. “We’re certainly not arresting residents who are engaged in drug sales or things like that.

“We do have a pretty significant drug problem in Davis,” he acknowledged.  “The price of methamphetamine dropped.  We have a lot of meth users.  We are dealing with a lot of heroin.  This complex is not popping up on our radar as being one of the problems in town in terms of either sales or users.

“We’re not tracking anything going on there,” he said.  There are no hotspots or reports of issues there.  “I don’t think that the drug problem there is quite honestly different than a lot of other places that are seeing use.”

Again, he doesn’t see it drive the crime in Davis.

Josh Chapman, who serves on the subcommittee, said this is a much larger issue than just Pacifico, and he spoke to the obligation of those in the community to look after and care for vulnerable populations.  He said that responsibility needs to be balanced against issues of safety for the neighbors.

He said the narrative has been spun in such a way as a choice between providing housing for at-risk members of the community and safety for the neighbors—and he believes we can have both.

“That isn’t a choice that I want to make,” he said.  “I think we can do both.”

“People who experience homelessness experience trauma and it’s important to get them housed,” he said.  He noted a 30 percent increase in homelessness and 190 people unhoused.  “To me it’s just not the time to pull that back.”

Councilmember Chapman noted the anecdotal experiences conveyed to him, and while he recognized that these experiences were “upsetting,” he also “stressed the importance of not conflating every single negative experience which we heard in some public comments, and we heard with people here, with someone in that neighborhood is a problem with Pacifico.

“We have to be able to step back,” he said.

He also warned that simply changing the management is not going to make some of the complaints go away—particularly those not involving current residents.  He said that we are seeing an increase of these problems across the city and they aren’t centered at Pacifico.

Mayor Gloria Partida also served on the subcommittee.

She said, “I do hear the concerns of the citizens living in that area.”  She empathized with their experiences and how traumatic that can be when they feel their safety at risk.

She added, “It’s very important that you don’t conflate every single person that has done something wrong that that person is a resident of Pacifico.”

Mayor Partida noted that the narrative is that the ten years where Pacifico has been run by the city, it has “been a terrible hotspot of all things lawless.”  She said the narrative is that it’s been an exporter of “degradation for the community.

“We didn’t hear about any of those instances and any of those problems until the Yolo County social services decided they were going to put a navigation center on the site,” she said.  “Suddenly everyone came forward.”

She noted the meeting the night when Natalie Corona was killed, calling it a “terrible juxtaposition of neighbors that were up in arms about how dare we try to put this center that is going to help people with mental health issues in their neighborhood and at that very moment there was a person with mental health issues that shot and killed this beautiful wonderful promising police officer.

“We didn’t hear anything about any of the issues that had gone for ten years until there was this possibility of there being this center on the site,” she said.  She acknowledged this was not a good place for that center to go.  “That doesn’t mean it’s not a good place for a well run and managed location for people who need housing.”

—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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6 Comments

  1. Ron Glick

    “’We do have a pretty significant drug problem in Davis,” he acknowledged.  “The price of methamphetamine dropped.  We have a lot of meth users.  We are dealing with a lot of heroin”

    That is frightening. What are we doing about that problem?

    1. Alan Miller

      That is frightening.

      What is even more frightening is when it is happening openly out your living room window.

      What are we doing about that problem?

      I don’t know what a city “does” about a drug problem.  The war on drugs was a failure by design.  You bust some people but the problem continues as the hunger continues.  A very few people hit a bottom and clean up.  Most slowly and quickly are killing themselves and eventually succeed, and in the meantime society as a whole reaps the effects.  Such is the nature of hard drugs.

      I’m sure someone can suggest a new unicorn or a tried and true unicorn, with statistics.  Yet the problem grows.  I’m sure it’s because we aren’t using the right unicorn.  Or we’re using the right unicorn wrongly.

      I suggest we don’t arrest people for being drug addicts, we offer help to those who are ready to get clean, and we lock up people for committing crimes against society, drug related or not, and offer help in prison for those who are ready to clean up while paying time for their crimes.

      And accept that drugs are and always have been ugly and fatal and probably a permanent part of any human society.

      1. David Greenwald

        I’m a lot closer to Alan’s position here than I am usually…

        “I suggest we don’t arrest people for being drug addicts, we offer help to those who are ready to get clean, and we lock up people for committing crimes against society, drug related or not, and offer help in prison for those who are ready to clean up while paying time for their crimes.”

        The vast majority of the people using drugs are not addicts, they don’t cause problems, and they function in their daily lives without a great amount of impact. I do worry about the *cure* for drug use being worse than the actual disease in many cases.

  2. Alan Miller

    I’m a lot closer to Alan’s position here than I am usually…

    Maybe you need another teaspoon of meth in your coffee this morning . . . totally kidding . . . maybe I do as I couldn’t have possibly read the above sentence.

    The vast majority of the people using drugs are not addicts,

    Wow that I’m not sure even what to say.  That would take such an effort to define what we mean by a drug and what we mean by an addict.  We would use the famous porn conundrum definition, “I can’t define it but i know it when i see it”, but that’s also impossible to quantify.  By some readings that may be true.  However there are some types of drugs, and I’d put meth and heroin in there from my observations, that very, very few users of those substances are not addicts, whereas a majority of those who use alcohol are not addicts — but that does not detract from the fact that as a whole alcohol may be the most destructive drug our society has — between its effects in quantity, and the devastation to those addicted.

    they don’t cause problems, and they function in their daily lives without a great amount of impact.

    This is true – a lot of drug users don’t cause problems – and the percentages of those that do and those that don’t vary widely by the substances used.  In addition, many addicts are fully functional in society, until they aren’t.  Usually the drugs take their toll, sometimes over months, sometimes over decades.  I include alcohol in this.

    I do worry about the *cure* for drug use being worse than the actual disease in many cases.

    Given the cure can be death that is certainly true.  But I don’t think that’s what you meant — you are referring to societal cures, and on that concept I agree though maybe not on the  specifics.  For most, the cure is they realize this isn’t working for them anymore and they stop — or they get a DUI and it wakes them up.  For addicts, that warning flag doesn’t seem to wave.

  3. Ron Glick

    “The vast majority of the people using drugs are not addicts,”

    Maybe true  for some drugs like Cannabis or alcohol but if you are talkin about tobacco, meth or heroin I’m not convinced. Meth and heroin are terribly addictive and dangerous. I don’t know what the answer is and don’t think criminalizing addiction is the answer. Rehab on demand and better health education around drugs would be a good start.

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