Was the Public Safety Task Force report a sham?
Task Force Report a Sham
Re: “Use the Force” (Currents, Dec. 11): This report is a sham. It doesn’t address two fundamental public safety issues, while focusing on minor ones like homelessness — making homeless people a bugaboo on which to project all our public safety fears — and needle exchange.
1. The report focuses on so-called “nuisance crimes.” These are not threats to the public, but rather the concerns of downtown merchants and other business people who wrongly believe the homeless are a “nuisance” who threaten their businesses. Casting this as an important public safety issue is despicable diversion from valid public safety concerns.
2. No data has been gathered showing that discarded needles are a major public safety hazard. The report states this as fact, citing an unrealistic “zero tolerance” policy goal, never establishing through factual analysis how much danger discarded needles threaten the public. Again, this creates another false target for public ire, diverting attention from valid public safety concerns.
3. The report advocates the discredited “broken window” policing strategy, which has been a civil rights disaster in other cities, most notably New York City, where it is bogged down in federal court.
4. Notably missing from the report is eradicating gang violence by aggressive teenage gangsters hooking up with Mexican drug cartels, dragging good, unsuspecting teenagers into the gang culture through free access to drugs and alcohol. These gangsters are terrorizing decent folk in embattled neighborhoods like the Westside. They are probably public enemy number one, but the task force merely advocates education rather than a proactive gang eradication effort. Successive city councils have sought to hide this—guns and drugs—under the rug.
5. Data suggests the prevalence of sexual violence against women and children is rising. Even if stable, it’s still unacceptable. Santa Cruz doesn’t even have a center for victims of sexual violence—the nearest one is in Watsonville. Also ignored are online predators who target primarily women and children on the Internet and use other electronic devices to threaten their victims—stalking was completely ignored by the task force.
In short, the Citizen's Public Safety Task Force wasted a unique opportunity to garner public support for data-driven measures to address serious public safety threat. Rather, they focused on criminalizing poverty.
Often politicians will create false targets to divert attention away from issues they would rather remain silent on. The task force failed us.
Expect Santa Cruz to spiral downwards into an even more serious criminal quagmire, especially for women and children. Public safety can only be addressed bottom up by a broad coalition of community partners — catering to the whims of vocal fringe groups with their hateful agendas makes Santa Cruz less safe, while dividing the community.
Dr. John Cohen
Re: “Water, Water Everywhere” (Currents, Dec. 18): Interesting photo of Mr. Longinotti. What if little or no water comes through that downspout this year, or next? We're in the middle of a serious drought. We are heavily dependent on rainfall to replenish our water supply each year. You can’t conserve water that you haven’t got.