Humboldt County recently experienced a perfect storm. Bubbling frustration with the homeless, persons with mental illness and alcohol/drug abuse in our community came to the national spotlight again when after midnight on New Year’s Day 2014, Father Eric Freed was murdered in the church rectory, allegedly by Gary Lee Bullock who may have or may not have had mental illness along with alcohol/drug issues (for the record Mr. Bullock was NOT homeless).
Over the past year we’ve had to endure numerous high profile murders that made national news:
- Jason Warren was released on a Cruz Waiver then allegedly killed Dorothy Ulrich in Hoopa, before allegedly running over three women (and their dog) while they were out jogging, killing Suzanne Seemann and severely injuring the other two joggers.
- Phoenix Triton King, a traveler transient who allegedly used a crossbow (a rarely used murder weapon since 17th century France) to murder James John James, a homeless man in the Samoa Dunes.
- Alan “Sunshine” Marcet and Christina Schwarz were allegedly murdered by Bodhi Tree, who also allegedly shot a man near Eureka High School a few days prior over a drug deal. Schwarz was a young girl weeks from her Eureka High School graduation.
- Douglas Allen Anderson-Jordet, the kitchen manager at Abruzzi’s in Arcata was walking home late at night after work and was allegedly beat and stabbed to death by Juan Joseph Ferrer, Sophie Buttercup Rocheleau, and Nicholas Benjamin Stoiber.
- Garret Rodriguez’s body was found in SoHum on “Murder Mountain.” The Times-Standard might have to correct their political cartoon about nobody ever dying from marijuana.
We as a community are angry and frustrated. There are certain things in society that are taboo. You don’t rape a nun and you don’t kill a person of God, whether he/she is a priest, pastor, rabbi or monk. When someone breaks into church property and kills a priest, it leaves us all feeling violated and vulnerable.
Gene Bass recently held a Safe Streets Eureka forum at the Eureka Veteran’s Center, where around 100 people showed up to hear how we can make our homes and neighborhoods safer. A few days later, Dr. Michael Fratkin organized Humboldt Meth Abuse Awareness Project at Redwood Acres, where around 200 community members attended.
So what can we do? Here are some of the ideas presented at the first workshop:
Get involved! You have to get involved. Your neighborhood can’t win if you don’t show up. Much like local politics, you can’t sit on your couch and complain. Do you know the names, cell numbers and emails of all your neighbors? If not, get out and introduce yourself and your family. Have a block party BBQ. When neighbors look out after each other and their neighborhood, the bad guys go elsewhere. Clean up your neighborhood. Bring a broom, rake or garbage can and clean up your blight. Remember sketchers want to live in a sketchy neighborhood because nobody cares.
Start a Neighborhood Watch. In Eureka, contact Suzie Owsley with EPD’s Problem Oriented Policing (POP) office at 441-4373 and arrange your first Neighborhood Watch meeting to go over ideas that you all can do to make your neighborhood safer.
Consider you and your neighbors joining Nextdoor.com to engage with each other and stay updated on the police/fire calls in your neighborhood.
Get a dog. You want to make thieves go on to the next house? Whether it’s a lapdog that makes noise or a big dog that makes a thief wonder if the dog will lick his hand or rip his throat out, dogs are the #1 deterrent to thieves.
Install outdoor lighting, a security system and security camera if you can afford it. While outdoor lighting will help you sleep better at night, a home security system with a sign posted on your front lawn will make a burglar think twice. Criminals like to operate in the dark, not where the neighbors can see them. If criminals know there are cameras at a home or business, they usually go on to the next location.
Think like a thief: First your home - when you’re going on a vacation do you advertise to thieves, “We’re out of town”. Do you stop the newspaper, the mail and leave some lights and music/TV on in your home? Do you double lock your sliding glass doors so they can’t be popped out? Do you have a relative, neighbor or someone else house-sitting your home, collecting the newspapers and mail? I can tell you from walking the neighborhoods of Eureka that when I see five newspapers lying on the lawn with a darkened home, you’re alerting everyone that you are out of town.
Your car - do you leave valuables in plain sight such as your purse, wallet, cell phone, electronics, Apple products, heck anything of value that a thief can see? Put your valuables in the glove box and lock it. It takes about two seconds for a thief to either Slim Jim your door lock or hold up a thick jacket and break out your car window for a “snatch & grab”. And please lock your car at night. Just this week, a man gassed up his truck, parked his truck and left the engine running and while he went into the gas station convenience store to get a cup of coffee. He came out one minute later and his truck was gone. Don’t give thieves an excuse to rip you off.
Call your local law enforcement for each and every crime you witness. Now I’m not recommending a 78-year old woman walk up to two drug dealers and whip out her iPhone and snap a shot of their drug transaction for Instagram. However, I am recommending you write down license plates along with the date and time of what you witnessed from a safe location. Once you create a paper trail and law enforcement starts to investigate, each additional crime starts to add up.
Consider a civil action if you have a sketcher house in your neighborhood. Find out who the property owner is and send them a certified letter to let them know about the problem, what you have documented and demand that they evict the tenants and/or clean up the eye-sore. Let them know that if they do nothing, the next step will be a consolidated class action small claims lawsuit of $5,000 per neighbor (joined together with nine other neighbors) for a $50,000 law suit. I guarantee you’ll get the property owner’s attention.
Document – Notify – Mediate … and then Litigate if all else fails. Remember, the goal is not the money, but the getting property owner to take responsibility.
The Redding Searchlight started a “Most Wanted List” where they post the mug shot, name, age and crime of the convict in question. All of these people were convicted in court and failed to appear at their sentencing hearing. Does anyone know a web source that might be able to put up a weekly/monthly “Humboldt’s Most Wanted List” and let our anonymous trolls actually do something good for once?
Vote for Measure O: Unless you want to cut law enforcement on the streets of Eureka, vote for Measure O (extending the increased sales tax) this November. If Eureka votes against Measure O, there will be nine less EPD “boots on the street”. Arnold Schwarzenegger said it best when he was out of office, “Californian’s love the services government provides. Just nobody wants to pay for it.” If you want to fight crime, give law enforcement the money and tools so they can do the job.
Write your elected officials: Most people I’ve spoken with want increased jail space to incarcerate more of the problem criminals, versus releasing them back out into our community. Write/email Congressman Jared Huffman, State Senator Noreen Evans and State Assemblyman Wes Chesbro so we can get the funding make this happen.
Guerilla Tactics: recently a Eureka neighborhood was having all hell break loose from two drug addicts who were stealing anything and everything that wasn’t nailed down. Cars were being broken into and homes were being invaded. Whatever could be carried to the pawn shop and sold on the streets for drugs was being stolen. These two druggies would be arrested and then released (“catch & release”) because they were non-violent offenders and then would to go out and commit more crimes. Love it or hate it, the Lost Coast Outpost mug shots are one of the more popular features of this blog. Consider putting the mug shot on a flyer with “Be aware of this person”, “Known criminal” and “Arrested multiple times.” Pass these flyers around the neighborhood and staple them to telephone poles and sooner or later the druggies in question will move on.
We’re going to be hearing from our District Attorney candidates that a very small percentage of the criminals commit a large percentage of our crimes. So why aren’t these criminals in jail? It’s a fair question. Now we (the voters) deserve a good answer. For the record, I’m staying on the sidelines of the District Attorney’s race and will let each of the four candidates campaign on the issues and their merits to be our next Humboldt County District Attorney.
Next week the meth problem and what we can do as a community.
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Pick of the Week: If you haven’t tried the Carter House happy hour yet (50% off all cocktails, beer and wine from 4-6 pm, seven days a week) they also have a $2 gin martini special during this time. Best drink special in town!