Quarter-cent of safety
A sizeable jump in the number of violent crimes and calls for overall service in Ventura has the city’s police department lobbying for a quarter-cent sales tax increase that would make way for more fire and police jobs.
A ballot measure could appear on the November ballot that, if passed, would fund the positions for roughly 15 new police officers and 10 new firefighters, said Ventura Police Chief Pat Miller. “In a nutshell, we have the same number of police and firefighters as we did 15 years ago and the City Council wants to increase fire and police staffing.” Despite a 40 percent increase in calls for service since 1990, the same number personnel is carrying the workload, Miller added.
In 2005, the department handled 87,223 calls, which is an average of about 239 calls per day.
Miller, who said that the number of Ventura’s public safety positions is below the national average for cities of the same size, believes the numbers will do the talking — and make all the difference in convincing the public that the measure, which would raise over $4 million a year for public safety services, is a true necessity. The measure would have to garner 67 percent of votes to pass.
According to information released by Miller, Ventura has 1.2 officers per one thousand residents, as compared to the national average of 1.5 for cities of the same size. This equates to a difference of about 25 police officers.
With almost 300 violent crimes reported in 2005, Ventura’s police department dealt with a nearly 15 percent increase in such crimes as compared to 2004. Additionally, the number of violent and property crimes combined increased from 4,194 in 2004 to 4,226 in 2005, which adds up to a .78 percent increase — and the highest crime rate in Ventura County, according to the Ventura Police Department. In Oxnard, for example, the number of crimes committed per 1,000 residents was 27.9 in 2005. In Ventura, that figure was 39.8.
In 2005, Ventura police responded to priority one calls — or calls that involve immediate threat to life, traffic accidents that involve injuries and felonies in progress — in less than five minutes about 56.4 percent of the time, a figure far lower that the department’s goal to respond to such calls in fewer than five minutes 90 percent of the time.
Due to lack of grant funding, the department reduced the size of its gang enforcement team. Due to lack of personnel, it also discontinued its school resource program, through which officers patrolled campuses and interacted with youth.
— Stacey Wiebe
Unruly underage drinking is bad
In a bold move to stamp out occurrences of unruly underage drinking in unincorporated areas of the county, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors recently gave a final thumbs up to a new ordinance designed to hold party hosts accountable when minors imbibe.
The new county ordinance follows similar city ordinances passed in Ojai and Fillmore, and the Thousand Oaks City Council is taking a close look at doing the same. Under the ordinance, anyone — including parents, adult friends and even teenagers — responsible for hosting parties at which underage drinking occurs can be fined $1,000 when the gatherings are infiltrated by police.
“This ordinance will decrease the number of young people, particularly females, who get exploited and abused at these parties, as well as decreasing arrests, injuries and, ultimately, the deaths of young people,” said Supervisor Steve Bennett. “It will reduce taxpayer costs and improve public safety in all of Ventura County because law enforcement can focus resources on other problems rather than multiple responses to unruly parties.”
The county ordinance includes a provision by which young people can opt to perform community service instead of paying the fine.
According to Ventura County Limits, a county-wide community partnership to combat underage and binge drinking problems that is supported by the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department, a survey of Ventura County students revealed what most of us already know: that the majority of underage drinking takes place at home, whether it be a student’s own home or the home of a friend.