Many factors have come together in recent years to turn parts of Fairfield into battles zone of sorts.
Drugs. Kids out on the streets when they should be in school. A culture that desensitizes children to violence. The ready availability of guns, either stolen or imported from outside the area. A culture where people think it’s OK to witness deadly violence and do nothing about it. A justice system that leads some to believe there are no serious consequences for their actions, and where doing time in juvenile hall serves as a badge of honor.
The fact of the matter is, if you’re between the ages of 13 and 30, and you’ve come of age in a crime-prone part of the community and either skip school or have dropped out of school, you’re at risk of being not only a perpetrator of sometimes-deadly violence, but a victim of it as well.
Major crime in Fairfield is concentrated in a number of known areas, although we all know that violent crime can happen anywhere. Those involved tend to be pretty young, as evidenced by the suspects and victims in recent shootings.
The situation is not hopeless, and certainly not for the majority of the community’s teens and young adults. Police Chief Walt Tibbet puts it this way:
“The bottom line: If you’re not selling dope, if you’re not truant from school, if you’re not hanging with people with guns, you’re going to do pretty good in Fairfield,” he said.
What we’re experiencing in Fairfield is not unique to Fairfield. It’s not just a police problem, either. Rather, it’s a problem for the schools and for the larger community. Tibbet said police can go into a neighborhood and knock heads, but that does little to change a culture that glorifies drug use and violence. Making arrests curbs violent crime in the short term, but does little to deter the next generation from repeating the mistakes of the previous generation.
That said, the police are ramping up. The department has hired a new sergeant to head up a second street team that will hit the streets soon. The second team will allow for coverage seven days a week so the department can flood violence-prone hot spots in the community. These officers, reassigned from other duties, will move where they’re needed to help prevent serious crime before it happens.
There’s more, cosmetic in nature but still important. The city set aside $100,000 a year to fund neighborhood improvements such as lighting and cameras. This money has been used to add cameras in trouble spots such as Parkway Gardens and along Dana Drive, among other things. Residents can help by making sure street lights are functioning properly, and reporting when they aren’t to the city or their homeowners association, whichever is applicable; and by promptly notifying police of suspicious activity.
The department is also adding two new positions to boost a homeless/blight outreach team.
Fairfield and the Fairfield-Suisun School District are working together to build a long-term, sustainable program to keep children in school and on track while in school, and to get children the services they need to succeed.
There are many pieces to this part of the puzzle: Youth programs through the Police Activities League and the Matt Garcia Youth Center; the various offerings at the Sullivan Interagency Youth Services Center; new positions within the district to combat truancy; the Public Safety Academy model, which is so successful that the district is looking to move it to a larger site to accommodate more students; and other youth-based programs such as Fun on the Run, Place to be After Three, and cooperative efforts with The Leaven after-school program.
“If it’s the school district operating by themselves, if we operate by ourselves, we’re doomed to continue this cycle,” Tibbet said.
These items and more will be laid out before the public during a community crime meeting that starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Willow Hall at the Fairfield Community Center, 1000 Kentucky St.
If you’re concerned about the recent violence, clear your schedule and come be part of the solution.
Reach Managing Editor Glen Faison at 427-6925 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlenFaison.