July 28, 2017 | Nathan Solis
Redding City Council members and concerned citizens discussed public safety for nearly three hours earlier this week during a special meeting at City Hall.
The meeting focused squarely on local crime and changes to the criminal justice system in California. One word continued to be repeated throughout the meeting by city officials: opportunity.
The meeting comes less than a month after Proposition 57 was officially made into law, which makes some violent criminals serving time in state prisons eligible for early parole. That puts a burden on counties and cities across the state.
At Thursday’s meeting, residents asked about more jail space and holding criminals accountable for their actions. They asked about security in downtown, financing for officers, firefighters, and a work camp for criminals, bicycle registrations, loitering and managing the homeless population in the city.
Councilwoman Julie Winter said, “The most helpful thing is to have suggestions.”
Vint Stevenson suggested the city look into bicycle registrations, real-time maps of homeless camps and lease city property to combat illegal encampments.
Elizabeth Cifu Shuster, downtown resident, encouraged people to talk to the homeless in the community.
John Bruno asked the city to find more funding for apprentice firefighters that were let go earlier this year due to a lack of funding.
Peter Alexander suggested QR codes on river trails, so people could scan trail markers with their phones and download trail maps. He reminded the council it had been a little over a year since the last attack on the Sacramento River Trail and that was because of more people walking on trails, volunteers patrolling and the homeless outreach officer with the police department, which all make the city a better place.
The next commenter, John Dixon, did not agree the trails or the city are safer. Crime is still an issue and programs to rehabilitate people are not going to solve all these problems. “These people need to be held accountable.” He echoed an earlier concept – a work camp for offenders.
One person suggested the downtown business community contract their own private security plan, which would free up resources for the city. Mayor Brent Weaver said with a lack of funding, volunteers could play a bigger force in downtown.
“We should be open to these opportunities.”
City Manager Barry Tippin said officials want to work with neighborhood watch groups and the Redding Police Department started to reach out to private security agencies to update on crime, to have more people in the field. “If that many people are thinking about the same idea” it is a good idea, said Tippin. “That’s also employment. I think that one has a lot of opportunity.”
Dr. Doug McMullin wanted people to know that homelessness is not a crime. “I think public safety is worse than it was a few years ago, because we’ve asked our law enforcement to solve homelessness.”
The council highlighted ordinances that focused on illegal camping, public urination, regulation of illicit massage parlors and the regulation of butane gas, which is used to make honey oil. County officials, like Sheriff Tom Bosenko and County Executive Officer Larry Lees, were also on hand to discuss rehabilitation and housing programs, and behavioral courts.
A week before, county supervisors agreed to fund additional jail space and a sobering center in the county jail.
County officials also highlighted housing programs and a new mental health clinic in downtown Redding, but they left the meeting early, because there was a graduation ceremony for one of those rehabilitation programs later in the evening.
Two councilmembers are facing a recall from a group of citizens who feel they are not addressing crime and public safety. Both Francie Sullivan and Kristen Schreder were present for the special meeting.
Outside the council chambers the recall group set up a table to gather signatures and nearby Schreder set up her own table, where she handed out a fact sheet with her voting record.
“I think the misconception is that the claims are I have not done enough for public safety,” said Schreder. “Those are incorrect. There are better ways to address these issues.” She cited the cost of the recall, about $200,000, that would come from the city.
After the meeting, Shuster said she felt the meeting was balanced between those with suggestions. Noella Person was impressed by the range of ideas. “And it was actually incredibly civil and I appreciated that fact.”
Amanda Smith, downtown resident, believed the meeting focused on a homeless issue, but enough on the criminal element. “Although I think that it is a big picture issue, I think we need more solutions to protect the stakeholders of Redding, those of us who live on the ground floor and are being threatened on a regular basis.”
City officials will compile the bulk of the evening’s discussion into goals for the city manager. Those will be revisited at a later date.
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