Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Redding Record Searchlight Editorial Absolute Horse Shit
and likely tainted my jury pool Now this, I fully intend to look
into seeking damages from these fools.
Two events last week illustrate that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about trying to make our community safer.
First, Steve Schmidt, a 41-year-old Redding resident, introduced his initiative in which people promise to be helpful to others, keep their eyes open for problems and take photos or video of incidents such as people being harassed. He's selling the bright green bracelets for $1.50 each — enough to cover his costs — along with a card explaining the program.
“It came about from witnessing and hearing about and reading about a lot of crime and a lot of instances around the city I felt like could have been avoided by community participation,” Schmidt told the Record Searchlight. "By wearing the bracelet, you’re agreeing to be vigilant, be on the watch for anything that’s going on, be aware of your surroundings and anyone in need.”
He envisions people who wear the bracelets will help others walk from a busy store to a car, help them load groceries, as well as draw attention to someone being harassed in public or to a potential crime.
He sold more than 100 bracelets in the first hour from his car in a parking lot off Athens Avenue in Redding. Among buyers was Peter Alexander, co-director of Friends of the Redding Trails. “The more eyes and ears that are out there, the safer we’ll be,” Alexander said.
Local law enforcement officials haven't hashed out all the details with Schmidt about his program, but they agree that it doesn't hurt to have more people paying attention.
“It’s great that citizens want to be involved and want to address some of the crime issues in our community but it’s always good to be more eyes and ears and report to law enforcement,” Sheriff Tom Bosenko told us.
As property crime rises in the city and social media buzzes with reports of cars stolen, broken into and other thefts, it is understandable that residents are ready to take crime prevention into their own hands. The Redding Police Department and the Shasta County Sheriff's Office say they only have enough personnel to go from call to call, with few officers and deputies available for patrol.
Indeed, Redding's Neighborhood Policing Unit has arrested numerous people in downtown and along Hilltop Drive, but that was funded by one-time monies from the city's general fund. When that money runs out, it's unknown whether that unit will continue. Voters also dealt a blow to plans to hire more police officers and build more jail cells when they resoundingly rejected Measure D in November, which would have raised sales tax in Redding by a half percent.
The frustration with a growing crime problem has led to citizens inviting the Guardian Angels to Shasta County. Neighborhoods are starting their own Neighborhood Watch groups and using online tools such as Nextdoor.com. Such measures can help deter crime and finger criminals caught on surveillance video and on witnesses' cell phone cameras.
But anyone who wants to participate in that vigilance must guard against vigilantism. And that's where the second incident last week comes into play.
Earl Allen Boek, who runs a one-man, self-styled neighborhood patrol, was sentenced to six months in jail and three years' probation on a felony charge of pepper-spraying his neighbor.
It started when Boek was driving through his neighborhood last January in his Crown Victoria when he believed he saw a neighbor run through a stop sign. He turned on a yellow flashing light on his dashboard and followed the neighbor home, stopping with one wheel reportedly on the lawn. The angry neighbor told him to leave, and Boek pulled out his can of pepper spray and aimed it at the neighbor, standing 6 feet away.
Boek testified he sprayed his neighbor in self-defense, but a jury decided Boek was the aggressor because he followed his neighbor and started the confrontation in the first place.
Law enforcement authorities stress that it's never a good idea to try to stop a crime in progress or aggressively go after someone you feel has broken the law. Instead, they suggest that people do what Steve Schmidt is encouraging: be a witness, take photos, be a helpful hand. But don't go playing cop and taking the law into your own hands.
As our community continues to seek ways to slow the rising property crime rates, it will be important for all of us to remain vigilant but not become vigilantes.