FAIRFIELD — More than 300 people who turned out for a town hall on crime heard a call to action Tuesday from the police chief, a police captain, a pastor and City Council members.
“We’re losing a generation of kids,” the Rev. Mervin Davis said. “The family is fragmented.”
Davis, pastor of True Love Baptist Church in Fairfield, spoke after Police Capt. Joe Allio asked parents to know what’s in the backpacks of their children and to know the youths their children hang out with.
“These kids belong to you,” Allio said.
Police Chief Walt Tibbet said Fairfield-Suisun School District trustees approved hiring eight truancy specialists. Ninety-three percent of criminal suspects and victims never graduated from high school, he said.
“When the kids are out on the streets, the streets take over,” Tibbet said. “Young people are losing sight of the fact that violence is very real.”
The police chief began his talk at Willow Hall in the Civic Center by saying of Fairfield: “The level of violence we’ve experienced is unacceptable.”
Four homicides have happened so far in 2014 while a single homicide was reported for all of 2009. In that same year, aggravated assaults totaled 63 but the number of such crimes has already reached 107 this year. Tibbet said of those involved in crime: “We will pursue you.”
“We will bring you to justice,” the chief said. “Wherever you are, you cannot hide.”
He also spoke about Fairfield’s effort to improve conditions at the 240-unit Parkway Gardens condominiums so that children can feel safe again in the neighborhood.
“If people will stand together,” Tibbet said, “criminals don’t have a chance.”
The chief also cited steps the city has taken, including a moratorium on so-called medical marijuana.
“We’ve got to stop the contrary message that marijuana is medicine,” he said.
Allio said 15 to 20 people witnessed the lone homicide police haven’t solved this year. Not one of the people was willing to speak, he said.
“The culture has to change,” Allio said.
The police captain said he tells people after a homicide that it was their friend who was shot.
“This is about justice for your friend,” Allio advises them.
Kris Corey, superintendent of the Fairfield-Suisun School District, said at the town hall that “education really is the solution to this crime issue.”
“The way out of poverty is through education,” she said.
Residents who spoke during the town hall included a person who cited the private social network nextdoor.com as among ways to combat crime.
David Perkins, another speaker, said his proudest moment came when a man who had a troubled youth approached Perkins at a restaurant to thank him for coaching baseball. The man, who was with his children, told them about Perkins: “This is a guy who, if it wasn’t for him, you wouldn’t be here.”
Lisa Romero, with her children, ages 1 and 3, said she shouldn’t have to explain to them why a homeless person knocked on the window of the car the children were in. Or why someone stole the 3-year-old’s TV from her room. Or about the odor of marijuana at the playground where the child plays.
Fairfield Councilwoman Catherine Moy called the town hall a big step and said of combating crime: “We can do this. We will do this.”
Councilwoman Pam Bertani called for a safe streets task force in Fairfield.
“Let’s do something,” she said. “Let’s get this done.”
Raymond Courtemanche, chief operations officer at Mission Solano, said after the town hall: “For us it’s a clear demonstration of the compassionate, caring community we live in.”
Ben Afisivalu, a candidate for Fairfield City Council, praised the event, as did council candidate Joe Martinez.
“Now we’ve got to put this talk into action,” Martinez said.
Solano County Supervisor Jim Spering, who also attended the town hall, said, “I’m really impressed with the comprehensive approach they’re taking to crime.”
“This is a tremendous first step,” Spering said.
Davis, referring to the big turnout Tuesday, told those at the event: “We don’t get this many people on Sunday.”
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.