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Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on May 9th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 10 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 10

Lompoc faces serious issues

By RON FINK

Another month and another attempted murder in Lompoc; what the in the world is going on?

Lompoc has always been a relatively quiet place to live crime-wise. Sure, there were petty thefts or home and business burglaries, but the level of violent crime was always low. Domestic violence was the exception.

Disputes were settled with harsh words or fists, not knives or guns. Today, the level of violent crimes seems to be growing. Whether local gangs have anything to do with it is a question unanswered by police.

The buzz seems to be that two or more groups of scofflaws are competing for position in the hierarchy of crime and are trying to convince the other groups to leave all things criminal to them. Of course, each faction thinks it should prevail, so there has been a recent upswing in violence.

Murders among the homeless, a dead body with numerous puncture wounds found in a popular dog park, another behind a council member’s commercial property, a good Samaritan stabbed while trying to protect his neighbor’s cannabis grow, and most recently a man was stabbed numerous times in a residential neighborhood for who knows what.

If you monitor the police radio, there are at least a couple of calls each week for reports of “numerous subjects fighting” in the various low-income areas of the city.

The Lompoc Police Department is short several employees—most are patrol officers. When a violent assault occurs, every police officer available must respond, take control of the situation, care for the wounded, collect evidence, and interview witnesses. Frequently, off-duty officers are called back to duty to respond to other calls or assist with the investigation.

Meanwhile, the Lompoc City Council complains that there are budget overruns in the public safety services; how do you budget for events like these? Another complaint seems to be that public safety accounts for the largest expense in the general fund; it does, but to provide an adequate public safety service for citizens, it takes an effective police/fire response to incidents.

If either police or fire departments tried to place money in their budgets to cover unexpected issues like these, it would likely be cut by the council.

It’s past time to face reality: Violent crime is the new normal in Lompoc. The budget people recently provided a mid-year review for the council and a substantial lack of revenue is hampering the city.

The former city manager, who was widely criticized by the council majority for suggesting that a new revenue stream was needed, tried to have a tax measure placed on the ballot. He was overruled by fiat, not a vote of the people; recently the same tactic was used to refuse voters the chance to vote on a cannabis tax.

No wonder we are short of revenue. The citizens should be allowed to express their opinion on the matter at the ballot box, but Councilmembers Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck, and Victor Vega feel that they are much wiser on these issues than the people who need the services. This is a seriously flawed response to a serious situation.

Lompoc is at a point in its history where just cutting the budget isn’t going to resolve the situation. Our parks and recreation programs suffer, facilities are deteriorating, public safety budgets are at the bare minimum, and the streets are literally falling apart.

Will more money solve the violent crime problem? One thing is certain: More staffing at the police department would allow a lot more pressure to be applied to groups that want to establish themselves as the dominate criminal enterprise in Lompoc.

A change of philosophy is needed. The council majority needs to change to a group that looks forward, not in the rear-view mirror. The “old school” mentality isn’t working; fresh personalities are needed. The voters of Lompoc, not three council members, need to decide if they are willing to tax themselves to provide needed services.

Draining the swamp is critical; hopefully a fresh crop of politicians will emerge in November. 

Ron Fink is a resident of Lompoc. Send your thoughts to letters@santamariasun.com.




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