Crime is an issue that impacts all communities and diminishes the security we desire and expect. The "lock 'em up" mentality is a *reactive* strategy; we need a *proactive* strategy that prevents and discourages crime from flourishing in our town.
A community of 100,000 residents like Fairfield could hire 10,000 peace officers, and that only is 1 peace officer for every 10 people. Despite their courage, professionalism and desire to help, the odds are that there will not be a peace officer around when you most need them. The primary person responsible for your safety, the safety of your loved ones, and the security of your property is *you*.
Building strong neighborhoods is the foundation of the campaign of security. I'm a big fan of the neighborhood watch program, in as much that it encourages neighbors to communicate and build relationships with each other. Whether it is dealing with a 'professional' gang, or just a pack of hooligans, we law abiding citizens need to be the stronger group. Our goal should not be to destroy crime in our streets, but rather to make it inhospitable for them, and motivate criminals to move along to some other community that is more accepting of their activities.
Communication is an important tool. However, commissions and "Blue Ribbon Committees" consisting of local VIPS have limited success. The dynamics in your neighborhood are different than those in my neighborhood. It is a better value for different neighborhoods to talk to others, in order to see what issues are specific to your neighborhood, as opposed to issues applicable all over Fairfield. Questions we should ask:
"What programs, policies and philosophies are in place that encourage criminals to call Fairfield home?"
-Do we have generous public assistance programs that subsidize criminals and give them a place to live and food to eat while they create havoc on our streets?
-Do we have a lax "catch & release" program that allows criminals to rapidly get back to their unlawful activities, and they don't fear the punishment doled out by our system?
-Is there a lack of jobs that triggers otherwise hardworking people to take up a life of thuggery?
California prison realignment is cited for much of the current crime surge, but are we to believe if we just left them in prison a few more years, they would finally see the light and be model citizens? Is prison a "corrective and rehabilitation" facility, or as a "detention" center? The recidivism rate for California prisons is around 60 percent. What that says is that for every 10 prisoners released from prison, six will be back in the system within three years. If our schools had 60 percent of their graduates come back for remedial schooling, we would clamor to shut them down. How will incarcerating more people help? The current system is not sustainable.
If there are limited resources to address crime, then it is time to prioritize who we really want isolated. People engaged in victimless crimes, like drug use or prostitution, should be diverted to programs where they can receive education and counseling without completely destroying their lives. For white-collar crimes like embezzlement, let the victim extract restitution from the culprit; why should the taxpayers house them? For juvenile crime, demand their guardians get involved and pay restitution.
Rethinking our definitions of criminal activities and solutions to such behavior is necessary, not only for the health of our respective budgets, but for the safety and vitality of our community.