Shasta County’s top law enforcement officers called the Blueprint for Public Safety a somewhat flawed document but gave it a passing grade Tuesday during a meeting of the Redding Merchants Crime Watch group at the Red Lion Hotel.
Other local government leaders were a little more charitable. Redding City Councilman Brent Weaver, who was instrumental in commissioning the Matrix Consulting Group in Mountain View to produce the $155,000 study, gave the 260-page document “a solid B.”
Shasta County Supervisor Leonard Moty suggested a grade of “B-minus or lower” and criticized the report for not providing more on “how we can do better with the resources we have.” Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko went with a B-minus and said some of the basic recommendations, like increasing jail staff, “are not a news flash.”
Commissioned last April, the blueprint is a response to a growing sense of fear and frustration over crime rates, an overcrowded county jail and issues like vagrancy, vandalism and theft associated with a more visible homeless population.
Redding Merchants Crime Watch is a group of business owners and concerned citizens created last year to share tips, strategies and information about criminal behavior. The group had its first discussion about the blueprint on Tuesday.
“The blueprint is not the answer—it’s the starting point,” said Moty, a former Redding police chief. “It shows the need for cities and the county to work together.”
Weaver said the study will help the Redding and Anderson city councils and the Shasta County Board of Supervisors make strategic decisions rather than simply throwing more money at the problems of crime and homelessness.
“In the new world we live in, we have to look at the root causes” otherwise taxpayers will not get a return on their investment in more officers and jail beds, Weaver said.
Redding Fire Chief Gerry Gray, who was promoted to chief just before the blueprint was released, called the report “a remarkably successful document” that offered 23 “tier zero” recommendations that could be acted on without spending additional money. “Rolling this out and talking about it is a big part of the process,” Gray said.
Redding Police Chief Rob Paoletti said he butted heads with the consultants over some of their staffing and scheduling recommendations. In particular, Paoletti questioned whether Matrix took into consideration Redding’s size (61 square miles) and the mandated 24 hours of training the city must perform each year with all of its sworn officers.
Officer injuries (many related to combative drug offenders) and budget constraints have stretched the police force so thin that the wait for service on emergency calls now averages 16 minutes, Paoletti said.
“To me, that’s a long time to hide in the bathroom while somebody is in the front of the house,” Paoletti said.
Bosenko said the Great Recession forced the county to close the Breslauer Lane Jail Annex and the Crystal Creek Men’s Camp, resulting in the loss of 160 beds, “and then they hit us with 109.” He was referring to AB 109, the Public Safety Realignment Act, which was 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.
“We now have guys doing nine years,” Bosenko said. “We need more staffing and bed space, but how do we pay for it?” The daily rate to house one inmate is $115, he noted before rhetorically asking if that money couldn’t be better spent on enhanced drug and alcohol treatment and education.
An implementation committee is reviewing the 100-plus recommendations in the report before it is returned to the City Council and Board of Supervisors for further action. Implementation team members include Shasta County Executive Officer Larry Lees, Redding City Manager Kurt Starman, Moty, Weaver, Bosenko, Paoletti and Anderson Police Chief Michael Johnson.
Photos by Jon Lewis.