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Is Crime Really Down? Council Incumbents Weigh In
 

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By Lookout Staff

October 21, 2020 -- Last year, Santa Monica experienced the steepest drop in serious crime in at least a decade ("Reports of Serious Crime Dropped in Santa Monica Last Year," October 20, 2020).

Yet, half of the local voters who responded to a recent poll said they felt less safe than they did two years ago ("Poll Shows Lack of Support for Council Incumbents," October 2, 2020).

The Lookout asked the four incumbents to explain the reasons for this discrepancy.

Gleam Davis

Serious crime is down in Santa Monica. Unfortunately, some people choose to ignore that fact and stoke fear in the community because it suits their political purposes.

I understand that anyone who is a victim of a crime doesn’t (and shouldn’t) care about statistics. I also recognize that Santa Monica has seen an uptick in property crimes such as car theft and that we continue to be challenged by misdemeanors such as public drug use.

Unfortunately, with the recent realignment in state law and the county’s refusal to jail those arrested for property and other non-violent crimes, it has been difficult to tackle these problems.

I am hopeful that our recent hiring of new officers, our doubling of the number of Neighborhood Resource Officers, and our rethinking of public safety will help us address these issues.

In the meantime, it’s important to understand that we all are feeling more anxious due to the pandemic. Our streets feel less vibrant and we are confined to our homes. Because we cannot connect in person, we rely on social media. But posts on social media frequently amplify a particular agenda or trade in negativity rather than promoting truth.

While Santa Monica needs to do more to make people feel secure in their homes and in public spaces, Santa Monica is a safe city. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can prevent all crime.

If you are a victim of a crime, please report it as this will help the Santa Monica Police Department decide where to deploy resources. As the City Council repeatedly has made clear, public safety is a top priority.

Ana Jara

A poll by the Goodwin Group in June of 2020 commissioned by the City asked respondents what issues should have priority - respondents gave public safety 9%. The FBI statistics show crime has dropped 16%.

I have worked since 2000 to build relationships with key police employees and include public health issues. It is tough work and there is more to do but FBI statistics show crime down 16% this year.
Homelessness –- which is a regional issue –- is down 8% in our City.

Working together, having honest community discussions and doing the hard work for solutions -- we can continue to improve and make systematic change.

Terry O'Day

So many of our perceptions are askew this year, and at the same time in so many meaningful ways our lives have changed.

My sense is multiple factors are at play.

We are all stuck at home and watching social media, which amplifies misperceptions, anecdotes and bias in unhealthy ways.

Homelessness has risen due to the economic depression. Because most social and economic activity has left our streets, what remains is people who have nowhere left to go, so homeless also appears more prevalent.

Also because most people are at home, we don’t have the same level of “eyes on the street,” which would normally constrain anti-social behaviors. What’s happening is more visible and brazen drug dealing and other bad behavior that is not prosecuted.

Many of our storefronts are still boarded or otherwise affected by the unrest or have gone out of business. This creates a sense of disorder and insecurity.

Politics are so prevalent everywhere right now and one side of the political spectrum nationally and locally is stoking fears to attain or retain political power.

Many on the other side struggle to acknowledge reality without making us more fearful.

Ted Winterer

I have not seen the Eyes on Local 11 poll as it was not released publicly. I do know the organization has a political agenda and sophisticated pollsters can craft questions to lead to desired answers.

The City of Santa Monica polled residents in June, asking "What should be the highest priority for the Santa Monica City government over the next year?" 9% of residents queried answered "Public Safety." The 20 page report on that poll is part of the public record.

That said, I acknowledge that these are stressful times for us all and data, even that provided by the FBI, doesn't always provide comfort.

As reported in this paper October 19, our local COVID case count hit a seven month low, but many of us including me still worry about contracting the virus.

Polls in the Presidential election suggest Joe Biden is way ahead, but Dems still lose sleep over the prospect of Donald Trump being re-elected. 2020 is simply a year in which we're all anxious all the time.

Finally, one has to wonder how much certain Council candidates have contributed to the perception of increased lawlessness through social media posts and newspaper columns in order to further their political agenda. Similar to the tactics used by Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020? I think we've all seen how well that worked out.


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