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Our taxes vs. our local law enforcement services

The other day a neighbor mentioned that some nearby streets were "sketchy", that she did not feel safe walking there, even in daylight. It's not a good thing when you feel unsafe in your own neighborhood. If Arden Arcade was a city, you could take that problem to your City Council member and your Mayor and demand they do something about it. They, in turn, would be able to look to their Police Chief (on the city staff) for verification and solutions. You might see those people again after a few days at the grocery store or the hardware store or a youth soccer game and chat with them about the situation. And you would certainly be able to follow up with the local police department plus attend regular meetings of the City Council, conveniently held at the nearby City Hall. Sooner or later your feelings of safety and security will improve because the Mayor and City Council are truly interested in the well-being of their city and its citizens. It's their job to focus on local priorities.

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Where does your local law enforcement tax money go? Some of it pays to settle lawsuits against this guy. {Photo credit: Crescenzo Vellucci in, May 29, 2020}

Arden Arcade is not a city, though. Our community is just an unincorporated nowhere land with the County being responsible for delivery of municipal services. It's up to the County to provide citizens with a sense of safety and security. Crime prevention is one of the services our tax money is supposed to pay for. So let's run that scenario from the first paragraph as it happens here: 1) complain to our only elected Supervisor - you are one of his 311,000 constituents - who advises getting hold of the Sheriff's Department, 2) attend a bi-monthly Sheriff's meeting at the bowling alley, plead with a Deputy Sheriff, and be advised to call 911 if there is a true emergency next time you walk in your neighborhood or to call the non-emergency number if it's just a feeling of insecurity. 3) Follow up by sitting through a long Board of Supervisors' meeting in Downtown Sacramento where you are allowed to scold the Supervisors for 2 minutes. Nothing will change, really, because the Supervisors have so much on their plate. They have county-wide responsibilities (e.g. courts, welfare programs, tax collection, voting and public health) in addition to their municipal service delivery role. Four of the five Supervisors were elected by - and thus feel a duty to - constituents elsewhere in the county. They are shielded from your complaints. Besides, you are a constituent of the Sheriff, who is elected by all the voters in the county.

OK, then, the Sheriff is your elected chief law enforcement officer. The Sheriff is on the hook to deliver your sense of safety and security. Yet you don't feel safe and secure even though the Sheriff's Deputies are (most of them, at least) hard-working professionals who put their lives on the line for you. Ask the Sheriff why the job isn't getting done and you will most likely hear that there isn't enough money to pay for the patrols you want. You will hear that federal relief money for extra patrols has dried up, that helicopters are expensive and that it cost a ton of money to run the county-wide jails. What the Sheriff won't tell you is that a lot of cash is routinely drained away for lawsuit settlements. Back in 2019 The Bee's Marcos Bretón wote a scathing article condemning our Sheriff as the worst in a generation, citing his malfeasance as demonstrated by successful lawsuits against his department. Across 2020, Sheriff Scott Jones continued to come out on the wrong end of lawsuits, losing $63,000 in February and a bit over $2,000,000 in May. And yesterday The Bee reported that Sheriff Jones lost a federal suit and must pay  $50,000 to a citizen whose civil rights had been abused. The Sheriff doesn't pay anything for those lawsuits, though. It's the citizens who pay. And the pattern of expenditures doesn't just hit us in the pocketbook, it translates to dollars NOT spent on law enforcement services, dollars NOT spent on providing you with a sense of safety and security in our community. Imagine how those dollars could have instead been spent on community policing and solutions to neighborhood crime problems, like how the City of Citrus Heights' Police Department cleaned up Sayonara Drive.

One of these days will we have a different law enforcement situation, with a new Sheriff who shepherds tax money into actual local crime prevention instead of wasting it on lawsuits? Or with a City Council, a Mayor and a Police Department that truly care about safety in local neighborhoods? We'll see.


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