A Mother’s Open Letter to RPD: ‘How To Empower Your Community Against Crime’

  

My son is 17 and walks home from Shasta High School, burdened by a heavy student backpack while traversing through downtown, taking Court Street and heading towards Gold Street where his dad's house is in the neighborhood behind the liquor store.

If you've ever walked this route, you may have encountered a number of transients, often addled by some type of substance. As part of this journey, my son crossed the railroad tracks just before he headed towards the neighborhood - not far from where a homeless encampment is visible down the embankment.

A siren whirred and an angry cop approached my son to give him a tearing into for illegally crossing the tracks.

Now - I don't know how many of you are aware that this activity is illegal - I wasn't until I looked it up. This officer continued to write up a ticket while my son glanced in the direction of a site where public intoxication and drug use, public defecation and occasional brawls occur - all unnoticed while the officer gave a verbal dressing down to a weary high schooler on his way home.

So, here's my point: Why not find a better way to teach a young person the error of their ways - clearly there was no criminal intent - and provide a teaching moment? What might happen if this were the approach? Might not our youth be more respectful of law enforcement? More aware of the laws? More inclined to share their knowledge with others?

When RPD chooses to handle situations like this in this manner - aggressive and angry towards someone who is ignorant of any infraction, particularly in light of the more apparent crimes taking place nearby, RPD looses it's opportunity to be a positive influence in our community. RPD looses the faith of their citizens and the opportunity to empower us all.

Sincerely, Citizen

Leah Haws, Redding

PS - For those of you who might respond that a cop can't know the difference between a teenager and a delinquent, please don't bother, as that assessment in and of itself is part of the problem.

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15 Responses »

  1. There is no money in stopping the real crime. your scared, young son is sure to pay any citation written to him. An easy target for a cop looking to be sure he takes home a paycheck.

  2. Since when is it against the law to cross railroad tracks. How is a person walking supposed to get from here to there if you don't cross. Not many of us can fly these days. If that's the case, the cop could stand there all day and write citations.

    I agree that he ignored the people who think they can fly high on their favorite drugs and should have concerned himself to those folks and given them the old revolving door at the jail.

    It is my hope that your sons stupid ticket will be thrown out of court. We have railroad cops that should have given him advise not to cross where he did and not RPD.

    Good luck to you and your son, Leah.

  3. Leah Haws, Redding -

    Interesting letter.

    Many points to note.

    1) You are entirely correct this could have been a nice teaching opportunity between the cop and your son. The officer could have taken the road of "Son - please be aware of the dangers and legalities of crossing the tracks..."

    That would have been nice. It's kind of hard for your son to be aware of this since no education that I'm aware of has ever been made by our community law enforcement or schools about railroad crossing dangers.

    2) It's not clear at all what the demeanors or personalities were that particular afternoon. How was your son's respect towards the office? What kind of day was the officer having? Is this the normal way this particular officer interacts with people, etc.

    Way too many factors.

    3) There have been several railroad vs. pedestrian fatalities locally over the past couple of years. Most of these were suicides, I believe. This has created a heightened awareness and quite possibly enhanced security directives from RPD management. Not sure.

    4) I agree with you 100% that this area is loaded with homeless criminals, sex offenders, drug addicts, etc. Redding and Shasta County is a magnet for these people due to the extremely high level of homeless services we provide. Also, our year round climate is favorable plus so many other benefits COR and the county provide to the "less fortunate." Truly a mecca.

    This fact, however, can not be included in your complaint or used as a comparison. True the cops should be working to get rid of these criminals.

    At the same time, your son was in the wrong. Two wrongs do not make a right. Only the interaction with your son can play into your complaint.

    It would be nice if someone from RPD responded.

    • What side of the tracks are you on?

      It's interesting how the lens of our society and local culture has caused us to link the homeless to the to "crime" and ticketing of a youth for crossing railroad tracks illegally. Many metaphors here.

      However, it's also interesting how some of our cultural "leaders" will grab this opportunity and use it to blame the "unfairness" of this police action on the homeless as if it weren't for the "homeless" this lad would have not gotten a ticket? Further more they will label all "homeless" as "criminals, sex offenders, drug addicts, etc."

      As we swing into the "holiday session" when our cherished cultural aspects of religion and capitalism intertwine I'll prepose this thought to ponder. If Christ (Buddha, Muhammad or your faith of choice) was alive today in Redding I would not be surprised to find Jesus down on the other side of the tracks with the "homeless criminals, sex offenders, drug addicts, etc" offering food, love, medical and mental health services and imploring our community to find ways to empower the "less fortunate" towards recovery, for they are us or a family member, perhaps just one break away...

      Throwing stones at the "less fortunate" is just a reaction formation of our anxiety about the tracks our politicians and "community leaders" use to divide us. The problem is much lager than a ticket for crossing them.

  4. The intent of the law your son violated is not to criminalize an activity but to save lives. I have to side with RPD on this call. Crossing rail road tracks is dangerous. Every year people are hit and killed by trains in Redding. The young woman who died on the tracks earlier this year wasn't the first student of mine who has died in this way.

    • How difficult is it to tell if a train is coming or not? What about all the jay walkers? What about all the bicyclists that ride against traffic or on side walks? As for getting hit by the train...then you win the Darwin Award.

    • Train tracks are ONLY unsafe if a train is coming. That happens very rarely, by comparison to our roads.

      If it's against the Union Pacific law for a pedestrian to cross the tracks how is it we can walk across the street at any number of crossings in downtown Redding? Girvan/273. Tracks at South, Tehema, etc. The list goes on.

    • Do you work at the school for the blind? because a 2 year old knows to get out of the way of a train.

  5. P.S. A police officer could care less whether a teenager is a "delinquent" or not. They do however notice when people break the law or engage in risky business. Maybe the officer was super vigilant because he was involved in cleaning up after the last train fatality.

    • Maybe the cop should start paying attention to more important matters...especially when you can see them from the point where the boy was standing?

  6. I believe that at that point, it should have been a verbal warning. There are laws about crossing a track, but to actually give him a citation...give the kid a break. An actual conversation with a concerned officer is way more important than money in the coffers.

  7. Just go to the court and tell them that the reason you crossed the tracks was because there was a situation where homeless/vagrants could have been hassling you. Have to get across the tracks in order to get away from them, and get home.

  8. Walking, bicycling, driving in that area of Redding is just awful. Jaywalking, bicylists riding wrong-way and on sidewalks, people insolently walking in front of moving cars, etc. etc. etc. Active drug dealing at all hours. Your son is very brave to stroll home from school in the area. If he can alter his route, even though it takes longer, he should do so immediately in the interest of his personal safety. As for being ticketed by RPD, well perhaps that officer once responded to a pedestrian fatality on the railroad tracks and did not wish to see a repeat. Also it IS legal to walk across the railroad tracks at the railroad crossing arms where vehicle traffic drives across. I've had to change my bicycle commute route, after ten years, as a result of the ever-increasing downtown crime scene.

    Shasta County decision makers caused a great disservice by approving the "Parolee Day Care Center" on Court Street. So many aimless, shiftless, mostly males wandering around downtown without a purpose since March............So many nearby residents dealing with repeated burglaries and vehicle break-ins........

  9. Two points:

    1. Crossing the railroad tracks anywhere except at a designated crossing is, unfortunately, illegal. RPD was enforcing the law in the same manner in which they did with my elderly father, who a few years ago was taking a shortcut to the lab for a blood draw. Many of us have walked across the tracks safely numerous times, but it is indeed an illegal act.

    2. The area in question has long been a magnet for non-residents of the Wildwood Park neighborhood, which is the oldest subdivision in Redding. During our last Neighborhood Watch meeting in August, which Chief Paoletti graciously attended, the consensus was that action should be taken to deal with the degradation of Calaboose Creek and its environs by the non-residents who persist in leaving copious quantities of garbage and refuse. A staggering amount of trash had been deposited on largely privately owned property, posted with no-trespassing signs that have been disregarded, damaged, or destroyed by non-residents. Funds were raised, property owners contacted, tasks assigned, and assistance was sought from various agencies. On September 21, Shasta Land Trust, in conjunction with the Annual Great Sierra River/Coastal Clean up and aided by local volunteers, cleared the creek of a great deal of human-generated debris.

    Readers might be interested to know that during the past week, in collaboration with the Wildwood Park Neighborhood Watch Group, the City of Redding, RPD (including the tireless work of Officer Bob Brannon), CalFire, and Sugar Pine Conservation Camp, the area of Calaboose Creek from Gold Street all the way to Market Street was cleared of many unviable trees, underbrush, and other vegetation. This allowed neighborhood volunteers to remove a vast quantity of bottles, cans, discarded articles of clothing, broken glass, syringes, shopping carts, plastic, food wrappers, cigarette butts, human excrement, (even an abandoned coloscopy bag!) styrofoam, etc., etc. from the creek itself and the surrounding banks. For those of you who may be interested, please drive by Waldon, Gold, California, and Hill streets to view the positive changes that concerned citizens, with the very much appreciated assistance of local and state agencies, can accomplish. We residents are hoping that as a result, this area will again become safe and pleasant, and the creek's ecosystem restored.

    And despite the accusations from Redding's most well-known homeless advocate, aka the well-intentioned if misguided "My-Dear-Readers", that a long overdue cleanup such as this is somehow "Harassing, hunting, and hating the homeless", most reasonable folks would realize that this is simply not the case. In truth, many private citizens as well as businesses would gladly commit to financially supporting a viable, means-tested program to assist those in need, while asking that these same folks in turn make some type of positive contribution to society and the common good.

  10. It was a teachable moment! Your son didn't know he wasn't supposed to cross the tracks, and now he does. There's no story here.

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