Safety in Our Neighborhoods
In last Sunday’s Ukiah Daily Journal, you may have seen the letter to the editor from Diane Zucker and Susan Sher entitled, “What Happened To This Neighborhood?”
Diane and Susan live in the small Wagenseller neighborhood, located in the area of Ford Street, Clara Avenue, Myron Place, Orchard Avenue and the adjoining streets. The area is already home to a large number of low- and very low-income residents, high-density apartments and townhouses, the Buddy Eller homeless shelter, the Ford Street Project drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, and the Mendocino County Aids and Viral Hepatitis Network. The organizations in the area help manage some of our community’s most chronic users of limited, first responder public safety and emergency medical services.
With so much packed into such a small area, Diane and Susan said, “… the level of density, traffic noise, pollution and overcrowding in the neighborhood has reached the tipping point.” Diane and Susan wrote because they are extremely concerned about the potential effects of overcrowding including blight, traffic, noise, and increases in crime.
When faced with these types of issues, crime prevention experts say that communities should organize and be proactive in keeping these problems under control. Ideas to reduce blight, traffic, and crime include clean-up efforts, beautification and traffic calming efforts, and holding block parties to keep neighborhoods connected and working together. The Wagenseller Neighborhood Association has organized and undertaken all of these efforts. Even with these concentrated efforts, the problems continue to occur.
Here at the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) we are very aware of these quality of life issues. One of our department goals is to improve the quality of life within our neighborhoods, and I have to admit, this goal requires some additional work–and additional resources.
During the last few years, the fiscal downturn and budget cuts have forced our department to reduce our police staff significantly, while the community’s demand for police services continues to rise–especially around these important quality of life issues. But, because our limited police officers spend so much time responding to high-level criminal activities, we have not been able to address the many quality of life issues that significantly impact our community.
To help understand the workload issues the department faces, we recently participated in a Center for Performance Management study, which creates a report to help municipalities and counties obtain, “… accurate, fair, and comparable data about the quality and efficiency of service delivery to their citizens.” For fiscal year 2011, 67 cities participated in the report, including cities as large as Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Louisville, Kentucky, as well as smaller ones, like Ukiah.
One of the areas studied was police workload, specifically “Felony Crimes per Sworn Officer.” The City of Ukiah reported the highest workload of felony crimes per officer of the surveyed cities. And, although we had the highest number of cases per officer, we also cleared a greater percentage than any other city in the report—89 percent.
In addition, UPD’s on-going community survey indicates that people feel less safe today than they did five years ago, and their concerns about crime have changed. While gang violence was the community’s greatest concern five years ago, today quality of life issues, methamphetamine use, transients, and marijuana have also become significant issues.
Methamphetamine, transients, and marijuana are sometimes related. Transients come to Ukiah for a variety of reasons. Our community is known for its generosity; transients tell us it’s easy to obtain welfare services, and most transients say that the main reason they make their way to Ukiah is because of marijuana.
To reduce the number of transients in Ukiah, our department is asking the community to stop being so generous–handouts enable transients to buy drugs and alcohol. These behaviors reduce the safety of people in Ukiah and put our police officers at risk.
Despite our reduced numbers, our police officers continue to work hard to solve crimes quickly when they occur. Now more than ever, it seems quality of life concerns and associated crimes are on the increase. In light of this, I thought some tips on how to protect yourself and your home would be important to review.
Though you cannot eliminate all possibility of becoming a victim, you can take steps to protect your personal safety. An attacker looks for essentially three things when picking a victim: vulnerability, accessibility, and availability.
Using the following personal safety recommendations as you go about your daily activities should make you less attractive to a criminal.
- BE ALERT!! Know who is near you and what activities are going on around you.
- Always walk with confidence and authority. Look ahead and scan your surroundings.
- When walking at night, carry a cell phone and some type of safety device (e.g., flashlight, whistle, or pepper spray).
- Be alert when a stranger asks for directions and/or continues to engage you in conversation.
If you are concerned about residential burglaries in your neighborhood, you do not have to feel powerless to change the situation. Most residential burglars look for crimes of opportunity. They pick what appear to be easy marks. You can take action to safeguard your home and your neighborhood, especially if you and your neighbors work together.
What can you do?
- Never allow people you do not know into your home, including a door-to-door sales person, a person asking to use the phone or looking for a supposed neighbor.
- Always keep your doors and windows locked, day and night.
- Never leave your garage door open.
- Don't have your valuables visible through windows.
- When you go on vacation, either pause the delivery of mail and/or newspapers or have someone pick them up .
- Don't hide a key outside for visiting friends and relatives.
- Don't advertise new gifts or purchases. Break up the cartons before leaving them at the curb.
If you are burglarized:
- Do not enter your house if you return home and find signs that a burglary is taking place or has taken place. Go to a safe place immediately, such as a neighbor's home and call the police.
- If you enter your home and find evidence of a burglary, call the police immediately. Do not touch anything or move anything around. Give the police a chance to gather evidence that may have been left.
- Try to determine what has been taken and prepare a list of stolen items (with serial numbers if possible) to assist police in their investigation.
We will continue to request additional officers, but in the meantime, the dedicated officers we have will keep working hard to prevent and solve crimes, and improve the quality of life in Ukiah.
Remember, you can help us by letting us know about criminal activity. You can file a report on our website or by calling us. If you are more comfortable providing an anonymous tip, that’s fine, too. If you’re not sure about suspicious activities, go ahead and report them. We’d rather check out a report that turns out to be a false alarm than to have a crime occur that could have been prevented.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.