Is crime on the rise in Chico, or is police response at an all-time low?

3 Aug

I don’t know if there is actually more crime in Chico, or more problem reporting crime and getting the cops to do something about it. I do know, I see more “homeless” people around town than ever before, and I hear more complaining and anecdotes from people about petty thefts, vandalism, and generally unpleasant behavior. 

This problem is NOT confined to the little section of the city known as “Downtown,” but city council only discusses the problem within those boundaries.  “Sit and Lie” only applies to Downtown, for example.  

So I turned to my county supervisor,  Maureen Kirk. I wrote her a nagging e-mail about how the Mangrove Plaza/Vallombrosa Post Office area is becoming a magnet for panhandlers and drunks. They take positions right outside Safeway, oftentimes between the shopping cart bay and the front doors, with dogs, with all their stuff. They will actually walk out in front of supermarket customers to ask for money. They camp pretty unabashedly around the post office annex, tearing bricks out of the retaining wall  where they sleep at night and leave their belongings/garbage during the day. 

I’m waiting for Maureen to come back to me with an update regarding a roughly million dollar grant Butte County Behavioral Health received this year to beef up services for the mentally ill, including transients picked up by Chico PD. At meetings I’ve attended, the police have complained that Behavioral Health was underfunded, and after 5pm and on weekends, the police had nowhere to take folks who seemed to be a “danger to themselves or to the public,” except the ER at Enloe.

Imagine yourself in there at 1am with a screaming child, and there’s a guy laying on the gurney in the next slot, covered with his own poop and muttering obscenities. Or not muttering at all, looking pretty dead. A person who is believed to be “a danger to himself or to the public…”  They’ve used our hospital ER, which charges roughly $7,000/hour, as a drunk tank.

I knew Behavioral Health was understaffed – I’d looked at the salaries, and seen – the director seemed to be a revolving door position, often empty. The salary was only about $58,000/year, while other management were making in excess of $75,000/year salary. “Staff” consisted of interns making less than $10,000/year, with no benefits. These folks came and went, and I can’t believe that kind of staffing is conducive to anybody’s mental health.

When the grant came up on the agenda, it looked as though they were hiring a couple of senior doctors, both compensated at well over $100,000/year including salary and benefits. One of these doctors will only be available via computer link. The rest of the hirees – it looked like, the folks who actually have to deal with the day-to-day problems of the clients, were to be compensated less than $50,000, total salary and benefits. 

I don’t like the salary scheme, but at least the department is getting staffed. I dropped Maureen a note  asking, does this mean the center will be open 24-7 for Chico PD to drop off transients and other patients? She said she’d check on this and get back to me. I’ll be interested in hearing what she finds out, thanks Maureen. 

2 Responses to “Is crime on the rise in Chico, or is police response at an all-time low?”

  1. Michael Jones August 3, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

    As Medi-Cal dental providers we had net no raise for over a decade, and last year took a 20% cut (10% cut per procedure billed, but with overhead at 50%, that’s ….). In the past providers would complain they weren’t busy enough; meanwhile a quarter of the population was not getting any dental care. Jerry Brown solved the problem by cutting what they pay us and using the savings to provide care for the previously unserved. It was the right thing to do. The Chico Police Officer Association should do the right thing and quit telling us they can’t do their job; the Council should cut the pay and benefits and hire more officers as needed. If CPOA keeps whining, then we should hire the County Sheriff to do the job. This is a community here, and we all need to look out for each other.

    • Juanita Sumner August 4, 2014 at 4:34 am #

      great analogy – I have more use for a dentist than a cop, and that’s not just a snotty remark, it’s a plain fact.

      Chico PD has been playing that tune for 20 years. But of course, the sheriff’s department is no prize pig – maybe you remember the infamous stripper bar sting! And I won’t forget the shooting at Inskip anytime soon. People need to hold these entities to a higher standard of service, but there are too many shills in our community who will stick up for their cop friends/relatives no matter what. The problem in our community is pretty endemic, I don’t know where to start to correct this problem.

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