Monday, April 03, 2006

Fairfield Already Safer

Fairfield Already Safer
Latest Efforts Will Help Current Crime-Fighting Strategy
By Jack Batson

A recent Editorial had a real bite to it ("Fighting Crime: Kardos, Mraz offer starting point to curb crime," Forum, The Reporter, March 19. It stated that previous Fairfield City Council candidates had "vowed that crime was a top priority. Much fanfare. Little action. Until now."

Little action? Ouch!

Allow me to remind readers of the history of the City Council's previous efforts.

Public concern over rising crime began during 2003 and became a hot topic of that year's council race. In January 2004, the council adopted "Make Fairfield Safer" as its primary goal, a theme that has continued to this day.

It wasn't just empty words; we have results to show.

The past City Council authorized the hiring of 26 more police officers and 18 civilian support services. We sponsored a community Safety Summit in 2004 that led to the initiation of a crime-free multi-housing initiative that will allow landlords to evict troublemakers from their apartments.

We held a study session in which we invited police representatives from Oakland, Vallejo and Vacaville to share how they fight crime in their cities. From this came the idea to form special units. We now have a Domestic Violence Unit, a Gang and Drug Suppression Unit and a Violent Crime Suppression Unit.

These almost certainly are responsible for the startling reduction of crime in 2005. By year end, violent crime in Fairfield had dropped 23 percent from the previous year. That drop recently gained the city recognition by the state attorney general, as violent crime had actually risen across the state in the first three quarters of 2005.

Rehabilitation of blighted housing under our Quality Neighborhoods program has also played an important part in crime reduction. The troubled Ellsworth Court trailer park has now been replaced with modern urban owner-occupied houses on Travis Boulevard. This project followed successful slum-clearance projects on San Marco and Fillmore Streets.

We redeveloped dilapidated apartments on Pennsylvania and Tabor streets, and are assembling properties at the curve of Pennsylvania and Alaska avenues for the same purpose.

Similarly, we have placed video cameras at troubled parks and hot spots that are constantly monitored and can be viewed directly by officers in police cruisers. These actions keep our parks and streets safer, too.

Of course, we aren't finished with the fight against crime in Fairfield, but a good start has been made. Morale in the police force is high due to these successes and recruitment for more "boots on the ground" is proceeding in a tight hiring environment.

The election of John Mraz, with his 21 years of Fairfield police experience, and Frank Kardos, with his sharp research skills, is a definite plus. The creation of police reserves, a gang and parolee injunction program, a dedicated county prosecutor, and an increased emphasis on investigations will continue the progress made so far.

Certainly, there's more to do, but Fairfield is fighting back and, I believe, is gaining important ground in its efforts to "Make Fairfield Safer."

• The author is the Fairfield vice mayor. E-mail:

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