By Dan Urazandi
There have been a series of crimes at my shop that have forced me to consider crime in Davis. Most of us take it for granted that Davis is safe like it was a decade or two ago. Many of us are learning otherwise as we are victimized by criminals. I hope a few more can be convinced without having to become victims and that corrective action will be taken before things get even worse, particularly as covid policy is emptying California jails.
In 2018 and 2019 my son and I were victims of two assaults with deadly weapon while minding our store. This year's crime was a burglary, we were hit with a smash and grab on 9/24. I was aghast and furious that the police would not assign an investigator to the case. They seemed unconcerned with property crime, which begins to explain its massive increase in the last few years. So we handled the case ourselves; when the suspect came back on 10/9 to sell me stolen merchandise from other stores he burglarized and, yes, some he had burglarized from me, my son and I put him under citizen's arrest after some struggle. When I handed him over to DPD they acted for the first time in this case with expedition by letting him go one hour after picking him up. That's after we found him, caught him, fought him and arrested him for them. The thief couldn't have been stupider and we went far beyond what a citizen should have to do to catch this serial burglar, but he went free anyway.
The general consensus is that Davis Police couldn't catch Coronavirus in the White House and everyone is despairing about the wave of crime in the city, but when it's time to vote the incumbent city council gets re-elected and more crime gets ignored. There are also two crime bills on the ballot, one that will reduce crime, one that will increase it—prop 20 makes theft a crime again and 25 makes the zero bail policy that sets criminals free right after being arrested permanent. Both of these would apply in my case and so many more. Everyone I tell my story to (outside of those who have had recent experience with criminal “justice”) is astounded that the burglary would go uninvestigated and the culprit would walk an hour after being caught red handed. But they were likely aware of Prop 47 when it passed and the covid zero bail policy, which made such travesties inevitable. Voters didn't realize the crime surge resultant from these policies and we are feeling it now. Yet the tide is turning and I expect a strong pendulum swing against pro-crime legislation. This will have repercussions throughout society and is the reason I prepared this piece for Davis' liberal media, for I suspect that many of the site's readers lean toward an anti-police, anti-authority sentiment.
We don't like the police; they busted our keggers in school, many of us experienced some repression from them, they represent authority and reinforce the status quo, and every time we have an encounter with them, even at our behest, it means we are having a bad day. We don't like cops but we NEED them. And when we need them we expect them to help, to act, to protect and enforce and to do so effectively with a free hand. So while there are some mad cries to defund and abolish, reasonable heads know we need good law enforcement and that the way to it is a reorganization of police. In Davis that means dumping all the taxation enforcement to free up resources for crimefighting. We have no need for parking tickets when parking occupancy is under 50%, so fire all the meter maids. When covid is over, they can be replaced by minimum wagers or volunteers. Same with the code enforcement. It is patently outrageous that there is no burglary investigation but there are police checking up on how low branches hang over the sidewalk and ambushing first year students when they bike through a stop sign. Like every public agency, the police are funded and have resources likely sufficient to their task if they managed them properly and prioritized according to the needs of the public rather than political whim or what earns the city the most money. But as long as the police have two jobs, a money sink and a money maker, too much emphasis will be on the profitable avenue. This is how we get a force that can't enforce theft but can write tickets, and how the police lose the citizens' respect. After the burglary my landlord and I were discussing putting bars on the windows; the police jumped in to tell us we had to have a permit for that.
Homelessness is another thing the police have made little positive impact on and we should consider taking it away from them. The council's record on the problem is even worse but the only way to take it from them is at the ballot. DDBA has a plan to pay a private firm to clean up downtown. Its annual cost is very close to what we are now paying Chief Pytel in salary and benefits.
Another major component of the crime wave we are in is the state's trend toward decriminalization of real crime. A rational push to ignore victimless crime somehow expanded to include many crimes with real victims, basically telling these victims that their pain and loss is irrelevant under the law. Making theft and shoplifting unprosecutable may just put small retail out of business. If I get hit like this again I might have to close. My son and I are losing sleep and this victimization has taken over our lives. The culprit is known to commit burglaries repeatedly and consistently at shops just like ours up and down the I-80. Just this one thief could close several stores, ruining their owners and putting staff out of work. But he is protected from incarceration and likely from prosecution.
Before you reach for the ACLU manual, think about the practical ramifications of pro-crime legislation. It hamstrings law enforcement and hurts the victims and the potential victims, society, the economy, basically all of us to benefit only criminals. And it has one more pernicious effect that everyone on the left must consider: it empowers the right. Every time a society gets so lawless that the population is afraid, they will sacrifice many things for the security promised by proto-fascists. Given a choice between their physical safety and less pressing issues like foreign policy and environmentalism almost everyone will choose to be safe. So first off, we should challenge the idea that being progressive means being anti-law enforcement. Any reasonable person can be anti-war, pro-environment, suspicious of corporate power AND anti-crime. And if we do not take such a stance we are at odds with the vast majority and risk losing support for our other issues. The pendulum is swinging back against laissez-faire law enforcement. Just like the crime permissive 1970s birthed the general swing to the right in the 1980s, we will see citizens of the country and California rise up against crime. If they have nothing else to embrace, if the left wing agenda is pro-crime, they will take the path to the right. So if we care about our other issues we need to abandon the anti-law albatross.
This is why I am talking to my people, the Birkenstock Beatnik Boomers and bleeding hearts on this site—we need to take crime seriously and vote accordingly. Then we need to pressure the city council to do something to halt the accelerating slide our city is in regarding crime. If you disagree becoming the victim of a serious crime will probably change your mind, and at the rate this town is going that is becoming more likely every day. But I hope we can think and act before that happens to most of us.
P.S. here are data from the statistical aggregate website neighborhoodscout.com. They rank cities for crime on a scale where 100 is best:
Elk Grove:33 Dixon:28 Napa:27 Vacaville:22 Woodland:15 West Sac:14 Davis:10