Wednesday, September 22, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 29
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Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on September 8th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 28 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 22, Issue 28

Lompoc police and the people they serve are victims of incompetent state-level politicians

By RON FINK

There have been more than 50 incidents this year in Lompoc involving misguided people shooting a gun who have no regard for the safety of others. Both their targets and innocent bystanders have been hit and either injured or killed in these incidents. Some were gang related, others were committed by thoughtless people with no sense of personal responsibility.

Crime is an issue in every community; the current Lompoc City budget explains the crime situation best: “[Police] Department statistics revealed that in 2020 there were 753 assaults, of which 183 were aggravated assaults. Of a major concern was the fact that 25 violent juvenile gang members were arrested and released by juvenile confinement. Of those 25, 11 were re-arrested for other assaults. Additionally, there were 231 vehicle thefts.”

Police and local elected officials are often a target of criticism when a community is worried about an increase in property crimes, assaults, vagrancy, vehicle theft, and many other crimes. But are they to blame or is there another reason why these crimes and many others continue unabated?

Policing any jurisdiction is complicated. Almost all issues related to maintaining law and order involve interactions with people who may be angry, may have mental health issues, may not understand that what they are doing is a danger to others, or simply those that feel that your stuff is “public property,” so they take it.

There are 44,444 people in Lompoc, according to the census conducted in April 2020. Of those, 46 are sworn police officers. That’s about one officer per 1,000 citizens. But, considering that this staff is divided into teams to provide officers available to respond to your calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the ratio of officers to citizens is significantly reduced.

Frequently all the on-duty force is required to mitigate one incident, leaving no one available to respond to other calls for service until the matter at hand is resolved. These incidents can be related to traffic accidents, gang issues, in-progress assaults, or containing an area while searching for a suspect.

Staffing is one issue, but there is another bigger issue that neither the police department nor the City Council can resolve.

In Sacramento, politicians like to say that they have “reduced crime”; technically they are right if you only consider statistics. But the big donkey in the room is how they did it.

State-level elected officials, dominated by one political party, make and change the laws that police officers and courts enforce. In the last few years there has been a concerted effort to “decriminalize” many property crimes like shoplifting, vehicle theft, and burglary. Another measure enacted by these same politicians was to “empty the jails”; in the process they allowed thousands of convicted criminals back out on the streets to resume their life of crime.

In the past, almost all crimes required either the posting of bail to assure the suspect would appear in court, or they stayed in jail until the case went to court. But not today; lawmakers have reduced the classification of these crimes, and the posting of bail for most has been eliminated. The result—offenders frequently repeat these crimes, honest people lose their stuff, and the crooks don’t show up in court. And even if they do, they are often serving no jail time because these were nonviolent crimes.

And what about the violent crimes; if the suspect is a juvenile, they are often released with only a “traffic ticket” to appear in juvenile court. Even if found guilty of the crime, they don’t go to jail, instead they go to juvenile hall, are released on probation, and when they turn 18, their records are wiped clean!

Any police agency can only enforce the laws incompetent/misguided politicians enact. These politicians are bought and paid for by people who live on large estates surrounded by fencing—or others who pay for these politicians simply for the enrichment of the organization they are part of without worrying about the consequences.

That leaves people like you and me who can’t afford private security to witness or be victims of these crimes. In state-level politics, money allows you access to the governing process, and we need the money we have just to feed and house our families.

Lompoc police and the people they serve are victims of incompetent politicians who also leave the Lompoc City Council holding the bag when people complain that the police aren’t “protecting the public.”

So, what can you do about it? You should press the City Council to send strongly worded letters to the California League of Cities, the governor, state Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham, and state Sen. Monique Limón defining the impact of the decriminalization of many crimes and demanding that laws be strengthened to protect us from common criminals.

Better yet, stop electing state-level politicians who just make your life more dangerous than it needs to be. Accountability is the best deterrent to criminal activity, and it starts with the people making the laws.

In the meantime, lock your doors, be aware of your surroundings, and continue to report the crimes you see to the police department. But don’t blame the cops or the City Council for something they have little control over: the actions of elected officials in Sacramento.

Ron Fink writes to the Sun from Lompoc. Send a response via the editor at clanham@santamariasun.com.










Weekly Poll
What are the most important conversations to be having right now when it comes to policing?

We need to address how racial bias influences policing.
We should focus on funding the police so they can do their job.
Mental health is where our dollars need to go, both in and out of the police department.
As one Sept. 20 community input meeting attendee said,

| Poll Results






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