We’ve had sightings of creepy clowns in Huntington Beach and at least one zombie robbery in Garden Grove. Crime rates are reported to be spiking and who amongst us hasn’t been approached by a sketchy-looking individual requesting cash.
Public safety is the paramount concern of most people; getting hurt or robbed is a traumatic experience that transcends the pain or financial loss. If a society cannot keep its people safe, little else matters, right?
Well, sort of. First off, crime and danger will never be eradicated. Even in the most perfect society there is no guarantee that crazy or greedy people will not break the conventions of the culture and hurt and steal from others.
I am sometimes grimly amused by posts on social media wherein people write something akin to this: “There was a break-in two houses down! What’s happening to our town? Time to move!”
Time to move where? If you know of such a utopia, let the rest of us know. In the meantime, we will have to deal with life as it exists, not as we wish it would.
The subject of crime was brought up at Tuesday’s meeting of the Garden Grove City Council when write-in mayoral candidate Tony Flores spoke about staffing of the city police department. According to him, not only was the GGPD’s authorized strength of 173 sworn officers too low for a city of nearly 180,000 people, but that, in fact – because of vacancies and injuries – the actual number was closer to 140.
Few people would argue against adding more officers to the GGPD, or any police agency right now. But the process is very expensive: remember that when you hire any employee you are paying not just their salary, but also benefits that frequently amount to half the value of their wages. Add on top of that a generous retirement plan and you’re talking about an investment that starts to climb into the million-dollar range after time.
It should also be noted that adding police officers would not automatically cut crime. There are many factors that influence law-breaking, including demographics, the economy, the influence of intoxicants and the legal system.
That group in society that commits the most crime is young men, ages 18 to 25. When the baby boom (people born 1946 to 1964) guys reached that “golden age,” crime spiked in the Sixties and early Seventies. When that wave crested, crime dropped.
Prop 47 is being blamed for much of the recent surge in law-breaking, but that’s only part of the problem. Homelessness and drug abuse – both opiods and meth – often go hand in hand, as does the “need” to steal to supply a narcotic habit.
OK, Jim, where’s the simple and quick solution? Sorry, but there is none. However, there are some things you can do to lessen your chances of being a victim, while society at large begins to address the bigger problem.
Make it difficult to be a victim: I frequently see on social media people saying “Someone broke into my car that I had parked on the street.” That’s rough, but if you have a garage, why are you car-parking out there? So many of us use the garage as a storeroom or workshop, but locking and garaging your vehicle makes it harder for crooks – who tend to be lazy – to do you wrong.
The same thing applies to locking your doors and windows. Alarms are good and cameras are useful, but nothing scares off a bad guy as much as a vigilant dog with a nice deep bark. Keep valuables out of sight, both at home and in your car. That means hiding your goodies even when the cleaning crew or repair people come to your house.
Get organized: Neighborhood Watch programs were in vogue in the Seventies, but many have been abandoned. In my tract, the NW sign is rusty and faded, evidence of neglect. Such operations, if supported by the city and staffed by good citizens, can have a big local impact on safety. Municipalities can do a lot more to promote and expand this part of the war against crime.
Defend yourself: You have a right to protect yourself. But do it smart. Learn some simple self-defense techniques. Invest in some legal but effective protective devices such as pepper spray. Stay away from areas and places that could be dangerous. Stay sober. Be watchful. Don’t open the door to strangers.
If you are a good citizen, you have a right to keep a gun in your home. But be careful: accidental shootings are tragically common. Even if you’re going after a burglar, if you miss, the bullet will probably go through the wall and hit something (or someone) you didn’t aim at.
Jim Tortolano’s Retorts column appears on Wednesdays.