There’s an old saying “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you”.
As I peruse articles in the Wall Street Journal, I am frequently reminded why we are fortunate to live in our little corner of the world. Recent headlines include ‘Murder in Several Cities Set Records’, ‘A Sanctuary City for Criminals’, and ‘Paranoid is a Rational Response to a World Gone Mad.’ Grim reading for sure and only exacerbated by the daily onslaught of treachery rampant in cities across the country. Synagogues held hostage in Texas, rampant smash and grabs in San Francisco, carjacking epidemic Philadelphia, subway murders in New York, father killed in Old Town Temecula – wait, what? That’s a little too close for comfort, eh?
Living where we do it’s easy to get complacent about our safety and the welfare of our families. After all, we live in some of the safest cities in the state and nation, according to FBI statistics. So, hearing about skyrocketing murder rates in cities like Chicago, Portland, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or New York concerns us, but only from a distance. We have not been directly impacted by those statistics, but in some subliminal way we are still affected. Even if it’s not a front-of-mind thing, we are painfully aware that crime is increasing everywhere and, together with inflation and Covid, have come to dominate the media narrative across the political spectrum.
Explanations for this crime epidemic are as varied and questionable as CDC guidelines for the Covid Pandemic, but a few issues seem to stand out to even a cursory inspection. ‘Defunding the police’ was a supremely ill-considered response to real or perceived police overreach. Even some of the more rabid advocates of these policies are having second thoughts as violent crime has increased in their formerly safe neighborhoods. Catch-and-release no bail programs are another wonderful idea that has resulted in less frequent law enforcement. After all, why bother arresting a perpetrator if they’ll be back on the street before the paperwork is finished? California’s own unique contributions to the problem, like Prop’s 47 & 57, and AB 109 deserve special recognition for redefining criminality, reducing or eliminating sentencing for even violent or sexually violent crimes, and administering only wrist-slaps for retail theft under $950 (#1 Google search: ‘How much can I legally steal in California’).
We can also point with some self-satisfaction to municipalities where the ‘woke’ citizenry have elected District Attorneys who refuse to prosecute criminals. The recently elected Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, himself a former police officer, was elected at least in part for his promises to address crime in the city. But how effective can he be when Manhattan’s new District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, began his tenure by instructing prosecutors not to do their jobs. Similar disconnects are occurring across the country pitting Chicago Mayor Lightfoot against state attorney Kim Foxx, San Francisco Mayor Breed against DA Chesa Boudin, and LA Mayor Garcetti against DA George Gascon. These people told us how they intended to do, or not do, their jobs, yet we’re surprised when they actually do it and are dismayed by the easily anticipated results.
We in Southwest County are certainly not immune from the troubles plaguing other cities. Yet our crime rates remain low and the safety of our citizens remains enviable. Why is that? Simple. We have local law enforcement that ensures, insofar as possible, that we stay safe in our homes, on our streets, and in our businesses. Murrieta’s home-grown police force under Chief Conrad, is a stable, professional, and positive reflection of our community standards. Menifee has recently adopted their own local policing model with some success under Chief Walsh. Temecula and other Southwest cities surely benefit from the efforts of our County Sheriff Chad Bianco, whose force is more focused on pursuing criminals than bending to whatever recent ‘woke-ism’ is in vogue. Finally, in District Attorney Mike Hestrin, we have a law enforcement ally who is not only supportive of police efforts through prosecutionsbut has established task forces for community outreach to reduce recidivism, combat fraud, and prosecute drug dealers, especially purveyors of fentanyl. With our support and appreciation, they can continue their job of keeping our region among the safest in the state. While it is unfortunately inevitable that the crime-creep that is infecting other areas of the state will occasionally reach into our area, the diligence of our officers will help keep that at bay.
Finally, I started this article by invoking the reality of paranoia. I’m not advocating that you lock yourself in your room and fashion a tin foil hat, but we do bear some responsibility for our own safety. The police can’t be everywhere, and we would probably hate it if they were. But keeping an eye on our surroundings, not putting ourselves in sketchy situation, and exercising a modicum of precaution can go a long way toward keeping ourselves and our families out of the headlines. It’s a team effort.