(This is an Op-Ed piece)
One of the hot button topics on the Elk Grove Laguna Forums Facebook is crime. Everyone is tired of it. Most think crime is increasing, even though the numbers show it is not. Perception is everything.
Along that line, one of the major talking points is South Sacramento or South Sac. I’ve lived in Elk Grove my whole life, over 50 years, and ever since I was a teen I can remember crime being a big issue in South Sac. Valley High School opened in 1977 and I remember attending basketball games there when Elk Grove High School played them and understanding the crime issues in the community. There was some violence after the games and fights.
When the topic comes up and South Sac is mentioned in a discussion on the EGLF page, it is like a lightning rod. The good people who live in the area, are offended by what they think is a “we are better than you” attitude from people in Elk Grove. I don’t think that is the case, even though it may come across that way. Crime in South Sacramento is higher than it is in Elk Grove. Some of that bleeds into Elk Grove. It has been that way for years. Franklin Blvd, I-5, 99 and Bruceville are all conduits from South Sac into Elk Grove. That’s not to say that criminals don’t live in Elk Grove because they do. A look at the daily watch summary each day proves that. A lot of the arrests are of Elk Grove residents, but a lot of the crime does come from the South Sac area.
Some residents of South Sac have said they feel safer there than in Elk Grove. Because of social media, we hear more about crime. Car break ins, assaults, burglaries and robberies all make the news. Elk Grove residents hear a lot about crime because of social media. The EGLF page has given residents of the area a place to connect and share what is happening. If not for social media, we wouldn’t hear about anything except major crimes. There is not a comparable social media page for the South Sac area, but if there was and people reported the crimes that were happening, it would be eye opening just as it is here in Elk Grove.
The City and County of Sacramento have done a very poor job managing the area. They allowed blight to come in. They allowed gangs to gain a foothold in the area. There have been more homicides in South Sac this year than in 15 years in Elk Grove. When people like me say that we can’t let Elk Grove get to that point, it is not a knock on the good citizens in the area. It is a knock on the criminals that have made it less safe.
When there is a shooting in South Sac or pretty much anywhere in Sacramento, it is not a big surprise. It’s a common occurrence. As someone who has lived here a long time, there isn’t much that would surprise me. Last night there was a drive by shooting at the UA Theaters at Center Parkway and Bruceville. When I saw it on the news, I wasn’t shocked. Some of the comments on Facebook mentioned what is happening to Elk Grove? Technically this was in Sacramento. Yes it is on the border, but it’s in Sacramento. Yes Elk Grove residents do of course go to the movies there. While the boundary between the two cities is not some magical line, there is a difference in the two cities.
The City of Sacramento has turned it’s back on the South Sac area for a number of years. The police department doesn’t have enough units for the area and is dealing with major internal issues between the department and city leaders. Politics is taking a toll on the department and many officers are leaving for better paying jobs and departments that support their officers. Hopefully the hiring of the police chief will help, but only if he stands up to city leaders and doesn’t become a pawn in their game. Officers are becoming less proactive. That means less stops, less arrests of people breaking probation and parole. Less active warrant arrests. It means the bad guys have more reign.
Elk Grove needs to learn from the mistakes the city of Sacramento made over the last 40+ years. It’s not about thinking we are better. It’s about thinking we have to do better. It’s why we have to have strong code enforcement to keep out the blight. Just because you own a home, it doesn’t mean you can let it get run down and lower the value of homes in the area. If you’re a landlord it doesn’t mean you can just rent to anyone and have that home become a center of crime as we have seen on several streets in Elk Grove. These homes are drain on resources. The city recently filed suit against a home owner on Demonte Way because of this. There are other homes in the city that need similar action and it is up to city leaders and the city attorney to take action. When I went on a ride along with the EGPD this week, one of the calls was to a home that has had others calls for service in the past. When I heard the street name come up, I knew where it was and I recalled the street name from past incidents.
Elk Grove needs more police officers. Our ratio of officers to residents isn’t that great. A ratio of 1 officer per 1000 residents is recommended. Elk Grove has over 170,000 people and less than 140 officers. Elk Grove is closer to 0.8 officers per 1000 residents. The city leaders need to make hiring more officers a priority. The officers we do have do a great job. The department is very proactive. Very community oriented. Police Chief Bryan Noblett has made being a part of the community a priority. He is a long time resident of the area and understands the importance of that.