While there’s plenty left to do, Redding has made significant progress in improving public safety.
That was one of the takeaways Wednesday from a special Redding City Council meeting intended to update the community on various public safety initiatives and provide residents with an opportunity to address the council.
Police Chief Roger Moore, now with four months’ experience as Redding’s top cop, said a lot of the credit for public safety improvements goes to the four-member Neighborhood Police Unit (NPU), a quartet of officers given the time and resources to “go after the worst of the worst.”
A veteran officer who was promoted four months ago to replace Rob Paoletti, Moore said his marching orders included a focus on “quality of life” issues facing the city: drug use, vandalism and property crimes. “I want people to get out of their car and make it to Safeway without being accosted,” Moore said.
Toward that end, the NPU has been busy, patrolling on foot, bike and in cruisers and focusing their efforts on the downtown area, Hilltop Drive businesses, parks and the Sacramento River Trail. Redding police officers have also coordinated with the Sheriff’s Department, the Shasta County Probation Department and the District Attorney to conduct citywide crime sweeps.
Freed from having to respond to the daily onslaught of calls, members of the NPU have been able to focus on well-known trouble spots, including downtown hotels like the now-closed Redding Inn and the Ponderosa. The results of their efforts are impressive. From January 2016 through this November, Moore said the NPU has made 1,229 arrests; contacted 961 probationers, 161 parolees, 165 former inmates released through AB 109; dealt with 29 gang members; seized 5.8 pounds of methamphetamine and 10.4 pounds of heroin; and confiscated 55 weapons.
Moore also defended his department’s focus on clearing out illegal homeless encampments. In addition to generating human waste and garbage, often in sensitive riparian areas adjacent to the Sacramento River, the camps become breeding grounds for criminal behavior. “We find needles and weapons, and that’s why we go after camps,” Moore said.
Officer Bob Brannon, the “superstar cleanup” director and his crew have removed 227,000 pounds of trash from illegal camps this year, Moore said. In a related note, City Attorney Barry DeWalt said the city now gives camp residents a two-day notice that the encampment will be cleared out; the city used to provide a seven-day warning, but many residents complained that a week was too long to wait.
Additional public safety initiatives expected to be active soon include a program to equip officers with Narcan, a nasal spray that can counteract a potentially fatal opioid overdose. “We will have the ability to save some lives,” Moore said.
A community education committee also is in the works, Moore said. The committee will allow the public to gain a better understanding of what police do and why. Police also are coordinating with the District Attorney’s office to free up a prosecutor who can focus on “quality of life” cases.
Sheriff Tom Bosenko said the county has asked the Board of State and Community Corrections to adjust the Shasta County Jail’s housing capacity rating. If successful and the rating is increased, Bosenko said the jail will be able to add as many as 160 additional beds. The increase will cost an additional $500,000 to $600,000 a year, the sheriff said.
Tracee Mann was among the 10 audience members to address the council and she said she represented several concerned parents upset with deteriorating conditions at South City Park where her daughter plays softball. Between homeless encroachments at the park and nearby Redding Library, Mann said she now takes her daughter to McDonald’s restaurant to use the bathroom.
Terri Moravec encouraged residents to engage in Neighborhood Watch programs and educate themselves on strategies they can use to stop property crimes before they happen. She also urged the council to create a fulltime funded position to oversee Neighborhood Watch programs. Community Service Officers used to perform that role, she said.
Parkview neighborhood resident Susan Weiss thanked the council and Moore for the steps already taken. “I appreciate what you’ve done. My quality of life has definitely improved,” she said.
Dale Ball, one of the organizers of a failed campaign to recall council members Francie Sullivan and Kristen Schreder, also thanked the council for making a concerted effort to interact with the community and beginning to make inroads on the public safety issues confronting Redding. “Problems are now being addressed, and as a citizen I appreciate that,” Ball said.
Mayor Brent Weaver said he was encouraged by a sentiment of optimism and he attributed much of it to the willingness of City Manager Barry Tippin and Moore (who are both relatively new at their positions) to “shake things up.”
While acknowledging that Redding continues to deal with significant deficiencies, Weaver said it’s important to keep things in perspective. “We can’t lose sight of the good things,” he said. In addition, both the city of Redding and Shasta County have to avoid “going along just to get along” and challenge each other to find solutions to the ongoing public safety issues.