Update: SCAC Provides Video of Town Hall Meeting on Crime

Redding Police Chief Robert Paoletti and a panel of law enforcement leaders faced an overflow crowd Wednesday at the McLaughlin Auditorium. Photo by Rob Simpson.

Click here to watch the full video of  RPD’s town hall meeting held in the McLaughlin Auditorium on Tues. Aug. 30. Video produced and provided by the Shasta County Arts Council.

At his last quarterly town hall meeting on crime, Redding Police Chief Robert Paoletti faced a polite audience of about 40 people. On an uncomfortably warm evening Wednesday, all of McLaughlin Auditorium’s 598 seats were filled by 5:45 p.m. and the fire marshal had to turn hundreds more away before the meeting began at 6.

The mostly civil audience arrived in standing-room-only force with one overriding theme on its collective mind: a simmering mixture of frustration, anger and despair over crimes, the criminals who commit those crimes, the officers who catch them and the jail and prisons that try to lock them up.

Paoletti was well aware of the growing interest in Wednesday’s meeting and switched venues from the smaller City Council chambers to the larger Sequoia Middle School auditorium. He also reached out to the criminal justice community for help. He was joined by the Anderson police chief, the Shasta County sheriff, the chief deputy district attorney, the chief of probation, and a pair of administrators from both the California Highway Patrol and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“This is just the beginning … of when we take back Redding,” said Carl Bott, the evening’s emcee and a host on his own radio station, KCNR 1460 AM, which featured a live broadcast of the meeting.

Paoletti ditched his usual Powerpoint presentation on crime statistics and instead turned the meeting into a Q&A forum. Several in the audience stood in line for 30 minutes and longer to ask questions. The police chief and Sheriff Tom Bosenko fielded the lion’s share of questions.

People wanted to know what they could do individually and as a community to better protect themselves; what the city and county law enforcement agencies were doing to curb rising crime rates; and the impact of Public Safety Realignment legislation (AB 109) on the community.

Others inquired into budget cuts, volunteer opportunities, gang activity and the effects of Redding’s growing homeless and transient population.

Paoletti and Bosenko agreed that AB 109—state legislation enacted in 2011 to reduce California’s prison population by diverting certain non-violent offenders to county jails and shifting their post-release supervision to county probation officers instead of parole agents—has placed a large burden on their cash-strapped agencies.

The Shasta County Jail, with its 381-inmate capacity, is constantly filling with people who used to be sent off to High Desert State Prison in Susanville and other institutions, Bosenko said.

“I have 26 people doing 2 to 8 years of county time,” Bosenko said. “Jails are not designed for time like that.”

With murderers, rapists and robbers taking up much of the space, Bosenko said his staff is left with little choice but to release more people brought in on less violent charges—a practice that grates on his deputies as much as it does on the community members who turned out Wednesday to complain about Shasta County’s “catch-and-release” practices.

“We have 20 to 60 people booked a day, and on any given day we may have one to six beds available,” Bosenko said.

Bosenko said he was heartened by a recent hour-long conversation he had with Gov. Jerry Brown about the short-term need for more space for pre-trial detainees and the long-term need for additional capacity for sentenced inmates.

A tent city similar to the jail operated by controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is not a viable alternative, Bosenko said in answer to one woman’s question. Bosenko said he was loathe to have taxpayers’ dollars awarded to inmates who successfully sue over unconstitutional incarceration practices.

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Photos by Rob Simpson

Chronic offenders are well aware of the situation, Paoletti said, and they know there’s few to no repercussions for blowing off court dates, so the merry-go-round keeps spinning.

“We need help … and that help may not be coming,” Paoletti said.

With fewer officers available to cover a 60-square-mile city, Paoletti said it is increasingly up to residents to protect themselves. Keep cars, doors and windows locked, don’t store valuables in plain sight, add security lights and remove shrubs and other structures that serve as hiding places.

“I hate to say it, but when it comes to crime it’s a competition between you and your neighbor,” Paoletti said. “And keep your head up and not walking around with your head in a cell phone,” he added to hearty applause.

Paoletti singled out Redding businessman Ed Rullman and his efforts in forming the Redding Merchants Crime Watch group and Jason Schroeder’s “Stand Up, Redding!” organization as good examples of community members joining forces to make Redding safer.

“I wish Redding was like it was,” the chief added, but methamphetamine use continues to plague the community “and now heroin is coming on big.”

In response to the growing frustration with theft, vandalism and loitering issues, Paoletti announced a trial program that takes traffic officers off motorcycles and puts them on bicycle patrols in downtown and along Hilltop Drive “at least a couple days a week.”

The move comes at a cost—traffic officers will not be available to take accident reports, which results in more demands on patrol officers’ time—“but we’ve got to at least try something,” Paoletti said.

Wednesday’s meeting will be aired on Shasta County Arts Council’s Community Access TV station (Channel 181 for Charter customers). Visit www.shastaartscouncil.org for the schedule; due to the length of the meeting (3.5 hours), the broadcast is not expected to be available until next week. It also will be available at the online archives of radio station KCNR by visiting www.kcnr1460.com.

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.
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17 Responses

  1. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Regarding the question about tent city prisons and Sheriff Bosenko’s lawsuit answer. The Arizona Correctional Department has used tent prisons to house criminals for decades. Other states have used tent prisons long before Sheriff Arpaio used them. The lawsuits against Sheriff Arpaio have been about his methods, right or wrong, not about tent prisons per se. The voters in Maricopa County have overwhelmingly elected Sheriff Arpaio five times. As my grandaughters live in Phoenix I am glad there is a tough on crime sheriff there.
    A Stillwater tent prison for low level prisoners could go a long way toward easing Shasta County’s crime problems.

  2. Avatar EasternCounty says:

    As one of the hundreds who tried to attend the presentation and had to be turned away by 5:30, I appreciate Jon Lewis’ report. I agree with Cheyenne’s comment about tent cities and the lawsuits. From what I understand, it’s not the tent cities per se that have generated the lawsuits; it’s Sheriff Arpaio’s unconventional methods — which, by the way, I completely agree with. When prisoners have complained about being outside in Arizona’s heat, his response is that our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan serve their country in the same heat while packing pounds of gear while being shot at. He has saved the taxpayers tons of money by serving 16-cent meals consisting of bologna sandwiches. His response to complaints about the meals is that if prisoners don’t like the menu, don’t commit a crime. If I were appointed Prisoner Czar, I would erect a tent city using the adage: it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. And if I were a public defender appointed to take the case of a prisoner who sues, I would see to it that I lost the suit. So far, the ACLU hasn’t won any cases against the tent cities that I’m aware of. I’m certain Mr. Barr and Mr. Mudford will tell me how wrong I am. Rant over.

  3. Avatar Rob Simpson says:

    I would like to know what the total dollar amounts of the property crime and thefts are and then compare that dollar amount to what a possible lawsuit against the county might be. Bosenko doesn’t want to endure the cost of a lawsuit and I don’t want to endure the cost of replacing car windows or my TV. I think my family’s peace of mind and security of their home trumps his need to avoid lawsuits. Anyway. It was a good meeting and a very definite call for volunteers and from the sound of it Paoletti is all ears when it comes to plans that citizen volunteers might have.

  4. Avatar downtheroad says:

    The Shasta County BOS turnout for the meeting tells volumes about our future. The Redding City Council did a little better. As long as there are “52” charities willing to enable the homeless, Redding will have a serious problem.

    • Avatar Sam Allen says:

      I am thinking they may be the next big issue. The charities need to have a rep from each of their organizations to coordinate and set up a system to process homeless through. If they don’t want any help, then that person will get cut off of the sevices. I personally know some homeless that are on SSI, get a check, check in a hotel and shower , go out and buy a lot of booze, share with others,get arrested and back on the street broke. Same folks month after month. It is such a shame! I have heard a lot of transient folks are stranded here. Well… We have an answer for that. The big grey dog rolls out of Redding every day. If you sign up for a free bus ticket, you never come back.

      • Avatar EasternCounty says:

        That one-way ticket should be to Sacramento. The legislators had a hand in making many of these problems for other areas so let them find solutions. Wouldn’t you love to see elected officials shoveling feces from store entrances? Perhaps that one-way ticket should be taped to a shovel with a legislator’s name on it.

    • Avatar Christian says:

      It is so much easier for a society or a community to criminalize the homeless than it is to criminalize homelessness.
      As the richest nation in the history of this earth’s existence how is it that:
      On a single night in January 2013, there were 610,042 people experiencing homelessness in the United States.

      Nearly one-quarter (1 in 45 children or 23 percent) of all homeless people were children, under the age of 18. Ten percent were between the ages of 18 and 24, and 67 percent were 25 years or older.

      People living on the street have behavioral health challenges.

      74% of homeless people do not know a place where it is SAFE & LEGAL for them to sleep and since 2001; the U.S. has lost nearly 13 percent of its low-income housing.

      That around 44% of all homeless people in the US is employed on a temporary or full-time basis.

      People in families comprised 36% of the sheltered homeless population nationwide in 2012, an increase of 4% from 2011.

      Criminalization of the homeless only cost more in monetary and social capital and fails to address the root causes of homelessness and it increases crime, mental health and substance abuse. Ask a child our young adult what they learn in jail doing time for petty crime or drug offense… it’s not “rehabilitation.”
      There are solutions:

      Communities should invest in more affordable housing and at the Federal level increase the supply and availability of federally subsidized housing.

      Communities need to coordinate and improve efficient effective social service delivery (mental health, drug and alcohol and case management) using established on-site programs like Salt Lake City’s very successful centralized model called Housing First.

      Establish tax credits for local employment and training programs.
      Establish a Living Wage in our communities.

      Establish at a Federal or State level a compulsorily Community Service Corps for all 18 to 22 year-old youth to help with our crumbling and degrading educational, infrastructure and environmental resources systems and that in exchange for their serve offers job training or college opportunities.

      I do agree that we do need to address crime by addressing the people that commit crime with increased law enforcement and judicial resources. But by making homelessness and mental illness in it’s self a crime, we are sweeping acute societal problems under the rug hurting our culture and civilization and in many ways will cost us more in the end.

  5. Avatar david kerr says:

    The bottom line: drugs, crime and gangs will increase. We will just have to learn to live with it. In Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley and Stockton, crime is like earthquakes, the price you pay to live there. It makes for interesting stories to tell co workers, friends and neighbors.

    A Bay Alarm system is probably in your future. Lojack on your car sooner than you think.

  6. Avatar Sam Allen says:

    I was stunned to see the support of the community. I think we all have a better understanding of how the criminal process works. Our citizens asked great questions and I hope they came away with answers. We have some more interesting meetings coming our way next week and if all goes correctly we may solve the big question” where do we put them?” We cannot let this momentum die out. Thank you all for coming out and showing support for our beautiful city.

  7. Avatar Liz A. says:

    I’d love to see huge numbers of volunteers turn the downtown parking structure into a Sheriff Arpaio type jail annex. Chain link, beans and rice, inexpensive fans, no dirty magazines or hd tv but all the classical music and Shakespeare they want piped in. Definitely more livable than the soldiers quarters in the middle east. Has anyone tabulated the cost in revolving door arrests, victim damages, hospitalizations, fire damages, (Mr. Smoke comes to mind) the endless court costs- even jury duty losses to employees and employers. Please, someone, find these figures for us. That might turn the tide.

  8. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Jesus was a carpenter who lived in Nazareth. He traveled the countryside sermonizing to the people. He did not beg or steal but was invited to spend time with his “flock”. He may have slept outside occasionally when away from Nazareth but he was still home as the Earth was his home.
    Anyone comparing Jesus to the present day transients who steal and threaten is in dire need of time on Dr. Craig’s couch.

  9. Avatar Karen C says:

    Turning the downtown underground parking into a jail annex? Surly, we do not need more criminals in downtown Redding to be housed in the middle of town. We need to get the jail out of town, not near neighborhoods, schools, but out into an open area, where there would be very tall fences, and no place to hide. The down town jail can be used for what it was designed for……short term criminals awaiting trail. We don’t need to spend a lot of money on housing, TV’s or any convenience for criminals. Sheriff Arpaio has been doing it right for a long time…why can’t we do the same? Keep it simple, slick, cost effective and uncomfortable. After all, do the criminals not make it uncomfortable for their victims?

  10. Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    Excellent article Jon. Great photographs Rob.
    This is a complex issue.
    No one person, working full time at a huge number of the jobs in Redding could afford rent anywhere without having sharing with other people.
    I will never forget reading in the RS about “low-income” houses being build near Churn Creek Road. Small houses starting at over $200,000. ????

  11. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Affordable housing depends on where you live. Wyoming teachers are paid one of the highest salaries in the nation. Yet, in Jackson housing costs are so high that the school district is building affordable homes on property it owns to house teachers.
    As for all those workers that work in the hospitality industry, they sleep in their cars. This is true in many tourist areas like Aspen and Vail and Park City. Tip well when you visit those areas as the worker waiting on you is the working poor.

  12. Avatar Ron says:

    I have a question. Can we get Sheriff Joe up here for a guest speaker venue?

    I think it would be great if he is willing and I’m sure this community could pull it off to get him here

  13. Avatar Ron says:

    On another note to bad we couldn’t get the same turn out for getting elected on the city council. Could you imaging 500+ applicants!

  14. Avatar Chris K. says:

    Think how frustrating this whole deal must be for the Police and the Sheriffs Deputies.
    They catch these criminals, many of whom are habitual offenders, arrest them and take them to Jail knowing full well that most of them will be released back out on to the streets within a few hours.
    In the end, all their considerable efforts are for naught.
    They are not able to reduce the level of crime, and more importantly they are not able to increase the level of safety in the community.

    That’s got to be a pretty tough pill for them to swallow.