Crime stats don’t tell real story
March 5, 2012
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
It’s hard to accept as convincing the assertion that crime is down in Paso Robles when one can look out a window at a passing parade of daily lawbreaking.
But the criminal activity that occurs regularly outside the picture windows of Karen Daniels’ Pellet Insurance Services Inc. does not interest the local police, who have ignored “for many years” her complaints, she said.
“We see everything that happens in this parking lot… from both sides of our office. We see the exchanges. We see the money changing hands. We see it all,” said Daniels. “This particular location is a hot spot for this kind of activity.”
Daniels said she questions recent claims by Paso Robles Police Chief Lisa Solomon that crime rates have declined in the North County town of 30,000 since Solomon took the helm of the department in 2007.
“I would certainly want some substantiation of her numbers,” Daniels said.
Solomon has initiated policies and procedures that severely limit the kinds of incidents to which officers are dispatched, or on which they will make a formal report. For example, drug and gang activity, many kinds of assaults, and burglaries with limited financial losses may not even get a patrol response. Both of these factors tend to diminish crime report numbers.
Additionally, the department’s roster of sworn personnel has been greatly reduced under Solomon’s watch, from 46 to 27.
Crime rate statistics are used to justify a department’s written policies; to lobby for pay increases; for public relations purposes; and for applying for grants and other financial assistance from state and federal agencies.
Daniels said she is speaking out in the hope that other community members will find their voice: “This is a situation that is bad, and getting worse.”
“I had a client in recently, and as she was getting ready to leave, things started happening in the parking lot. ‘What’s going on?’ she asked, and I said, ‘Just watch.; It’s a little horrifying to be in a professional setting, and for that kind of thing to be going on right in front of you. Fortunately, she was a long time friend and client, but we did have to let her out the back door.”
Things have gotten so bad in recent years, Daniels said, that “my employees have to lock the doors when I’m not here. I have called the police. My employees have called the police.”
She estimated that she and her employees have made more than 50 calls to police. “But we have yet to have an officer show up here.”
Has Daniels witnessed a recent growth in obvious criminal activity?
“Absolutely,” she said. Her business has been a tenant at the Spring Street location since 1996, and during that time, “I’ve seen it all. But during the last year or so, there has been a definite uptick in (criminal) activity.”
She worries about her employees sitting in front of windows at the office.
“I didn’t have to worry about that 16 years ago,” she said. “More patrols and more visibility of police would go a long way toward helping solve the problem.”
“I’m aware that I could endure retaliation, it’s a distinct possibility,” she added. “But I have a duty to make sure that my employees are in a safe environment. This situation is way too repetitive and is headed to where someone is going to be injured, or worse.”
Daniels said she thinks the situation has gotten to where “we all have to do our level best to help one another, because our protection is not (the police department’s) number one priority. Right now, all they can do is damage control.”
Daniels said she wants to be a voice for business owners and residents who share her concerns, who can’t get a response from police when needed.
“We are failing as a community if we remain silent,” she said. “We have to join together. The police are our insurance against crime. Their job is to protect and serve, and quite honestly, I think they are failing to do that. What is it going to take?”