Tag Archives: crime in Bidwell Park

City of Chico is management top-heavy, and it shows

31 Aug

Well, I don’t know if the needle giveaway happened at Humboldt Park yesterday. I had a stack of chores yesterday morning, including fix my bike, so I didn’t make it over there to check. I looked at various social media sites today, and there was no mention of it, so I’m  going to guess it just went away. We’ll see.

My bike looks great, and I’m getting the new tires today – all the freaking way from Holland. I guess they love old bikes in Holland. 

I probably won’t ride my bike in Bidwell Park.  What a mess. Tents still line the waterways, along with the requisite trash piles. We’ll see how long it takes council to be good on their word, and whether this new police chief – $20,000/year richer than the old police chief – will clean them out. There’s also a discussion scheduled for tomorrow’s meeting about a “sanctioned campground” at the Silver Dollar. We can’t let them take the fairgrounds, make yourself heard on Chico Engaged.

Yesterday I read Natalie Hansen’s interview with Councilors Brown, Schwab and Huber about social media. Brown is full of shit – I not only email them, I make comments on Chico Engaged. Brown has NEVER responded to even the most polite emails.  I believe she believes any disagreement is “impolite”.  I believe they all look at the sender before they read, and if you’ve criticized them or disagreed with them in past, they just skip your comments. Brown can prove me wrong by reading the Engaged comments out loud. The councilors should have to do that, not the clerk. But Brown has her own agenda, her mind is wrapped up in a Zip-lock bag to keep out any dissenting viewpoints. 

So I write the occasional letter to the editor.

The city of Chico is now being sued by a jogger badly injured in 2017 when a huge tree branch fell on her in Lower Bidwell Park. She was trapped for 30 minutes and had major injuries.

The suit alleges the city does not budget for tree maintenance in Lower Park, which is “traversed by tens of thousands of people every year.” The plaintiff was using an established path, alongside “various recreational amenities, including picnic tables and barbecue pits.” According to the suit, many staffers knew the tree, hanging over South Park Drive, was dangerous, but not only failed to prune or remove it, they didn’t bother to place signs or barricades to keep people away from it.

In 2017 the city budgeted about $45,000 toward “Park Tree Maintenance”.  This year $57,500. For perspective, my family paid $10,000 to have 16 dead trees removed from our property. Bidwell Park has thousands and thousands of trees, many of them dead or dying.

While staff claims to have been cutting positions and costs, the city manager recently hired another management position for Public Works, at $125,000/yr, plus benefits. He created a new management position – Public Information Officer – and is asking council to approve another full time management position – Homeless Coordinator.

Meanwhile staff is “considering” a fire suppression plan after homes were threatened near Annie’s Glen.

Our city is management top-heavy and it shows. The park is horribly neglected.  We need timber cruisers and heavy equipment operators, but we get people who sit in meetings all day.

Juanita Sumner, Chico




Engage your “leaders” regarding the transient problem

9 May

After I posted the picture my husband took in Bidwell Park I sent it to Mayor Sean Morgan with this note:

Mayor Morgan,
> I am sending a photo of a mess my husband and dog walked into Friday morning in middle Bidwell Park, along the Fitness Trail. I don’t know the station numbers, but I think this bears investigating. A cursory walk through the area between the freeway and Manzanita Avenue would turn up many illegal camps. You will see small but well established trails leading back into the blackberry vines and other non-native, overgrown brush, where you will find trash piles and oftentimes occupied camps. My husband has encountered people in tents right on the main trail.
> We’ve reported these camps in past, this very spot has been cleaned within the last six months by the alternative custody program.
> This is disconcerting given Chief O’Brien’s recent revelation that bicycles are being stolen to fuel heroin habits. We see other articles in these trash piles, oftentimes bike parts, stuff that looks like it’s been taken from people’s garages  – even a real estate sign in one pile. We’ve found poop tied up in those bags the city provides to pick up after dogs, piles of them. We’ve found the little caps that go on syringes at places like Cedar Grove and along the Fitness Trail. This is our neighborhood, where we live, our adult children live, and where we have rentals. We wonder why illegal camping is being allowed in a park that traverses a large area of town, and is so overgrown, a criminal can disappear through a gate and into the bushes faster than a jack rabbit.  These people are predating our neighborhoods, and public works department staffers have told us the campers have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and must be given notice before they can be kicked out. They are not required to take their garbage.
> How ironic.  These people are practicing illegal Search and Seizure in our homes while our families are at work and school, but they get Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights by pitching a tent in the park.
> Having heard/read your comments regarding the parklet for Starbucks (and I wholeheartedly agree with the latest decision), I know you must be as disgusted as I am with what’s going on  in Bidwell Park. My family and my tenants need to hear you have a plan to do something about it. All we hear is how the city doesn’t have enough money to fix roads and clean the park, but the pensions get paid no matter what.
> Thanks, at your convenience, for your anticipated response, Juanita Sumner

He responded fairly quickly and it seems we are in agreement about the problem.  


Disgusting picture to be sure.  I am frustrated by the transient issue and short of throwing all the service providers out of town (which I’m told won’t work) I’m short on plausible solutions.  Our police Target team and Park Rangers break up camps on a regular basis only to see them started again. 

 I am forwarding your email to Chief O’Brien who I know will forward it to Target.  The camps will move then pop up again (leaving trash, debris, and worse).

I believe making Park Rangers fully fledged police officers will have some effect but not a magical one.  Until we stop protecting the people taking advantage of our community we’ll continue down this slippery slope.  The Governor says they’re not criminals and the Sheriff can’t house them.

Regarding the pensions: you nailed it.  Illegal not to fund CalPers (which can’t seem to earn a decent return to save it’s life) while we can’t keep up on street maintenance in our town.  Municipalities in California are in for a rude awakening (one we avoided once) as sales tax revenue disappears (lost to the internet) and pension cost rise.  In Chico we’re doing all we can to hold pensions and salaries in check without losing valuable safety officers.

We do have some things coming (not tax increases, those are on someone else’s agenda) and I expect to see some improvement soon, but if the majority that runs this state doesn’t realize how they’re killing it, there won’t be much left to fight for soon.  BUt fight we will.

Thanks for letter and continued vigilance.


Well, there he acknowledges the problem.  Since he offered no solutions I offered him some of my suggestions.

Thank you for your courteous reply,

I think the first thing you can do is reject the “continuum of care” coordinator – this position is nothing more than a grab for more federal money to house more of these people in our county/town. [The city of Chico has been asked to approve and provide funding toward this position, which requires matching funding to get the grant.]

Also, I don’t know where you live in town, but you might consider running for county supervisor. Both Kirk and Wahl have consistently voted to fund the Behavioral Health programs that are bringing these people here.  I think they’ve had their term and they need to step down, time for somebody new give that office a whack.  [Both Wahl and Kirk are up in 2018 and maybe Morgan could do a better job as county supervisor than he has done as mayor – he would have more authority to defund Behavioral Health.]

I’ve worn myself out reporting these camps to the police and public works department. Eric Gustafson told me these people have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, in our park?  I’m also tired of hearing we don’t have enough money to deal with this stuff. We’re paying people to tell us they don’t get paid enough to work. The spot I showed you has just been cleaned by the alternative custody program, but they don’t go far enough. They need to remove non-native, dead, and overgrown vegetation.  We’ve talked to these people – they’re not real workers, my own kids could run circles around them. They stand around yakking, looking for the first passerby to stop and talk to.  [They aren’t supervised.]

I’m glad to see Dan Efseaff get the boot, we need to get rid of more management do-nothings. He once  told me he had brought the Salt Creek crews in and the work we saw was great. He said these crews cost about $100 day, but he couldn’t afford to bring them in again?  [See the link below for professional services these crews provide.]


No more Alternative Custody Service, let’s get the real crews into the park and you’ll see how many hobo camps they find buried in there. I grew up here, I remember the Bidwell Park of the 1960’s, and it’s a disgrace how bad it’s got just in the last 5 or so years since Nakamura gutted our work force to give management bigger salaries. You and council must figure out how to get rid of these overpaid suits and get more workers in here on the same budget. Good luck.  [I didn’t want to remind Morgan, but he and Sorensen stood by and cheered as Nakamura cut positions and quietly raised management salaries.]

thanks again, Juanita  

I have not received any response to my second e-mail, and neither Chief O’Brien nor the Target Team have contacted me about the homeless camp I pictured. 

Please engage these people – sean.morgan@chicoca.gov – mark.orme@chicoca.gov – michael.obrien@Chicoca.gov  – and let them know how you feel about this situation.  Send pictures, that seems to get their attention.

Tom Wolfe called it “Mau-mau’ing the Flakcatchers”.

When will the crime problem stop getting worse and start getting better? The evidence says it’s still getting worse

19 Aug

This morning, riding bikes in a markedly deteriorating Bidwell Park, my husband and I found evidence of car break-ins at the parking area there at the gate above 5 Mile, where Centennial hits Chico Canyon.

I was shocked that a person had just driven right up and parked on top of an obvious crime scene.

I was shocked that a person had just driven right up and parked on top of an obvious crime scene.


From the piles of glass, it looked like at least four cars had been violated.

From the piles of glass, it looked like at least four cars had been violated.

As my husband was snapping the photos, a neighbor came along with her large German shepherd. She asked us what was going on. We pointed out the glass on the ground, and she seemed shocked. I don’t think she would have noticed it if we hadn’t pointed it out to her.

I was shocked that people would just drive up and park their cars at the scene of the crime and wander off down that trail.

I’m not reporting this to Chico PD, because I don’t know any of the details, and I would assume that the owners of the cars would report it.  But, I’m reporting it to you, and I hope the word gets out.

I’m not going to assume anything, except that several cars had their windows busted out in this spot. I’m guessing it wasn’t a rash of people locking their keys in the car. I’m also guessing that it happened at the same time, quickly, because the glass looked all the same, as though it hadn’t been laying there very long. I’m no Columbo, but I’ll guess if you park there the chances are pretty good your car will be broken into, I think that’s a pretty safe guess.

Later in the morning my husband took me to a North Chico hardware store, and overheard the cashier telling the customer ahead of us that he should never leave valuables in his car, and always lock it up when he was going to be away from it for any amount of time.  Car break-ins are becoming common all over town.

We heard a lot about the “carjacking” over on Vallombrosa.  I’m not sure what separates “carjacking” from “car theft,” unless it’s the fact that the victim actually made contact with the thief, chasing the car as it sped off. In one early report, I heard the car was left running in front of her house, unattended. Later it was said the keys were left in it. She said she just went into the house to get a few things, etc. I hate to go all Jack Webb on you, but the cops have the discretion to cite a person for leaving their car keys in the car, and I’m pretty sure the insurance company takes a dim view of that kind of behavior. Leaving a car running unattended is a threat to public safety.

Wake Up People!

The car broken into across the street from my house had a purse left laying right on the seat in full view – her window was smashed so fast a woman looking out a window across the street didn’t even see it. She just saw a man walking away.   A friend of my kid’s left his IPOD on the seat of his car at Bear Hole, in full view, and his wallet under the seat. His window was broken out and both were taken from his car.

I think this is a matter of professionals who know how to get into your car quick, know what to take and how to cash it in. I’ve heard some interesting chatter about various ways thieves break into cars, but for the “smash and grab,” they’re not after the car, they’re after valuables they  can carry away in a backpack.

So, you think you’d see people walking around with little hammers or something – those would be heavy and hard to conceal. And pretty damned incriminating. There’s a funny little trick these thieves use – tempered glass from broken automobile spark plugs. They’re called “ninja rocks”, and as of 2003, the California penal codes lists them as “burglary tools.” But they’re alot easier to conceal, and probably just about as easy to discard on the run.

Want to see how fast it happens? Watch this video:

and here’s Part II, where he busts a toilet with a sledge hammer – this guy is a scientist!

I’m guessing these are common around Chico. I’m guessing many of the “street people” we see weaving their way through town and along Chico Creek are professional criminals who find the homeless highway a very convenient getaway, going from town to town, stealing as a way to make ends meet.

The cashier at  the hardware store told the man ahead of us, “we need to clean them out.” There was something sinister in the young man’s face as he said that.  I remember Lloyd Brown – beaten to death by two drunken Butte College Students who discovered him sleeping in an alley. I don’t want that kind of campaign.

The cops have gotten raises, and the city is talking seriously about hiring more cops. The county Behavioral Health Department got over a million dollars in grants to deal with the mentally ill, and have recently closed escrow on a new Chico Behavioral Health Center. Why are we still having this problem with “street people”?