Neighbors Brace for Impact as South City Park Fences Go Up; Dacquisto Throws Hat in the Ring for a Council Seat

Residents of the neighborhoods surrounding crime-infested South City Park met on Tuesday to consider their options now that the city has decided to put a fence around the park and make its few amenities available on a reservation-only basis.

Organized by Terri Moravec, the Neighborhood Watch block captain for her Wildwood Park neighborhood, the meeting at the Redding Library also attracted residents of the Parkview and Garden Tract neighborhoods as well. Redding Police Chief Roger Moore was the featured speaker.

Moore started with some grim statistics: Police have logged 625 calls for service at South City Park in the past six months with drug and alcohol use, fights and thefts prompting the bulk of those calls.

Redding Police Chief Roger Moore. Photos by Jon Lewis.

Police resources required to respond to those calls are stretched to the breaking point. Ten years ago, when the recession hit in 2008, Moore said his department lost 20 sworn officers, 17 community service officers and 25 employees in the Records division.

Presently, there are seven officers and one supervisor on duty during each shift, responsible for a city that spreads out over 60 square miles. The situation has been compounded by the enactment of AB 109 in 2011, which sent 45,000 felons back to local jails throughout the state, and the follow-up punches of Prop 47 (reclassified numerous felonies as misdemeanors) and Prop 57 (early release for “non-violent” offenders).

The combined effect has meant that hundreds of felons sentenced to state prison out of Shasta County are now back in the community. Hundreds more are (or were) serving time in a jail that was never intended to house long-term sentenced prisoners.

While careful not to sugarcoat things, Moore did hit a few optimistic notes:

–Efforts at cleaning up illegal encampments, led by officer Bob Brannon, continue to produce positive results with last year’s total of 300,000 pounds of garbage expected to be doubled in 2018.

–Moore said he recently received word that Shasta Regional Medical Center plans to open a 20-bed facility to house people suffering from acute mental health issues.

–A dozen portable bathrooms located at some of the more popular gathering spots have significantly cut down on the amount of human waste, used needles and other dangerous waste. And unlike the permanent public restrooms that have to be locked at night to prevent vandalism, the portable bathrooms are surviving, Moore said.

As for the park, Moore all but guaranteed the fence project will have some unintended consequences. “These folks are here and they will be someplace else,” he said. “Where are they going to go?”

Redding, for better or worse, “is ripe for camping” with plenty of remote corners to hide in, Moore said. And not unlike a penitentiary, illegal encampments—and some areas within South City Park—are developing their own criminal hierarchies (captains, enforcers, etc.) that force others to seek the relative safety of parks and other public spaces.

In the near-term, Moore said officers will be monitoring the surrounding neighborhoods to assess impacts from the fence project and that ultimately the city plans to privatize South City Park.

Moore said it is his hope that more people will start using the park and make it unattractive for the criminal element. “Get rid of the bad and bring in the good,” the chief said.

That’s also the goal of Redding architect Mel Freilich, who presented a proposal for South City Park that she developed along with Heather Phillips and Ericka Jones. The trio’s proposal calls for a rebranding of the park, the addition of low-cost amenities like a dog park, food truck landing, community garden, a public water feature and infrastructure for year-round gatherings “that will begin attracting more well-intended citizens.”

Michael Dacquisto

Promising a platform dominated by improving public safety, economic development and fiscal responsibility, Redding attorney and bankruptcy trustee Michael Dacquisto announced on Tuesday his candidacy for the Redding City Council.

At a noontime event in the Atrium on the Market Street Promenade, Dacquisto told his supporters that he brought his family to Redding in 1994 “for the people who live here. They are nice, outgoing and interested in succeeding.”

Michael Dacquisto.

A native of Washington, D.C., Dacquisto was part of a military family. He received an undergraduate degree in economics from Stanford University and he was awarded a law degree from the University of Southern California. His community involvement includes Rotary, the Redding Library, Kool April Nites, the Sundial Film Festival and as an investor with the Shasta Angels.

Dacquisto, who unsuccessfully campaigned for a council seat in 2014, is seeking one of three seats up for election on Nov. 6. The other announced candidates are incumbents Francie Sullivan and Kristen Schreder, business owner Erin Resner and Shasta College instructor James Crockett.

The top issue in Redding is crime, Dacquisto said, and he said the city can’t afford to wait on Sacramento for any solutions. Instead, he proposed revisiting two completed studies—the Safe City Project and the Blueprint for Public Safety—and ensuring proceeds from a proposed tax on retail marijuana are used “to put more boots on the ground” and increase jail space.

Dacquisto said he favors increasing the city’s contribution to the Shasta Economic Development Corporation, which he estimates will yield significant returns in the form of new businesses and more jobs. Rather than raising taxes and fees, Dacquisto said the city should focus on bringing in more employed taxpayers.

Under terms of fiscal responsibility, Dacquisto noted that the two incumbents in the race, Sullivan and Schreder, both voted for the much-maligned raises for two managers a mere two weeks after voters soundly defeated a half-cent sales tax measure to bolster public safety. The raises, Dacquisto said, “were a thumb in the eye to voters” who had already expressed a lack of trust in City Hall.

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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