Yes we CAN stop crime in Santa Ana – but we need to be proactive!

(Photo courtesy of the L.A. Times.  Photo by Don Barletti)

“In response to an escalation of violence — including three shootings in a 24-hour period last month and an increase in arrests of gang members with guns — Santa Ana police have launched a three-day operation targeting gang members and encouraging residents to report crime in a 2-square-mile area southwest of the Civic Center,” according to the L.A. Times.

The L.A. Times also explained the scope of the operation, which “began early Tuesday with 62 officers in patrol cars and on motorcycles, who saturated the neighborhood bounded by 1st Street, Edinger Avenue, Bristol Street and the Santa Ana River. Officers walked crime-heavy neighborhoods to talk to residents and urge them to call if they spotted trouble. Probation officers and parole and immigration agents also patrolled the neighborhood.”

Take a look at the last part of that previous paragraph – SAPD officer spoke to residents and urged them to call the SAPD if they spot trouble – but the sweep included immigration agents. Talk about counter-intuitive! On the one hand you want folks to call the police, but on the other hand you bring “La Migra” on the sweep? Not good!

One of the community activists interviewed by the Times was Roman Reyna, who said “that although supportive of the police surge, he would like to see a long-term plan to address crime in the area.”
Reyna is correct about this – we all support going after the bad guys, but this sure looks like a political operation. Why didn’t the SAPD conduct this surge earlier this year? Why did they wait for 18 people to get shot?

I am told by city hall insiders that Councilwoman Michele Martinez spoke up at the last City Council meeting about gang violence. Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez then accused Martinez of leaking information to the gangs. And the next thing you know, the SAPD conducts a gang sweep and catches Martinez’ brother! Serendipity? Who knows? But Alvarez is probably ecstatic.

Back to Reyna’s point – does our city have a long-term plan to address crime in Santa Ana?

Take a look at the City’s police department website. I just did and I can’t find ANY information in Spanish! Maybe I am not looking hard enough?

“Police Cpl. Jose Gonzalez said that such unwillingness (to report crimes) was so endemic that the department decided to respond to the latest spate of violence by walking through several neighborhoods, telling residents that they can report crime anonymously and without fear,” according to the Times.

Maybe we need to make our police department more accessible? There are many who say that poor Latinos don’t have computers, but that is no longer the case. Many do. Working parents try to get computers for their kids, since we have only one library in town and it is hard to find businesses that provide rental computers with web access in most parts of our cities.

So having a Spanish language police page would be a start – in fact it would be great if Spanish speaking residents could anonymously email the department when they observe crimes.  Folks are not taking a stand because they are AFRAID – and I can’t blame them.

The only Spanish language information I found on the City’s web page was a page with phone numbers to call.  Contrast that with the City of Albuquerque, which found a cheap way to make their website available in Spanish – they provide a Google link that translates their City website automatically.  Is it a great translation?  No, but it is better than “nada.”

So can we get a handle on crime in Santa Ana? Yes. I suggest that we:

  • Make information available in Spanish, including our City’s web page!
  • Increase police presence in troubled areas – but put the police on foot, on bikes, etc., during the day time so that they are more approachable. And let’s get more police out on our streets at night, particularly in hot spots.
  • Stop harassing young people just because of their looks. I have seen this happen right in front of me, over at Santiago Park.
  • Invest in more public libraries and more youth programs, particularly during the Summer. And we need to translate our public library web page into Spanish too!
  • Find a way to introduce more parks and open space in our city – yes we are fairly built up, but what we need is solutions, not excuses.
  • Get the Artists Village involved – offer free basic introductory art classes to Santa Ana’s youth. Let’s get them to paint on canvases instead of spraying on our walls.

This police sweep took a few criminals off our streets. But in my opinion it was more about politics than about fighting crime. We need a long term plan and we need to understand that there is more to fighting crime than just engaging in police actions.

We need to fight crime in part by helping to keep our youth on the straight and narrow. We need a commitment from City Hall to more parks, more libraries and more youth programs. We can’t rely on reactive policing – we need to be proactive as a community and as a City. We CAN stop crime in Santa Ana – but we won’t accomplish that by doing business as usual. That hasn’t worked for the past twenty years. And it won’t work now.

About Admin

"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.