Are We Really Better Off? | Lost Coast Outpost | Humboldt County

Roger asks Adrian Kamada, Stacey Eads, Michael Acosta

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Are We Really Better Off?

Candidates,

At least one of you has stated that no significant changes are needed in the District Attorney’s Office.  However, this assertion is belied by the data compiled by the California Department of Justice, which maintains crime statistics up through 2020.  (Publicly accessible at https://openjustice.doj.ca.gov/exploration/crime-statistics/crimes-clearances).

According to the data, between 2015 and 2020, California had 1,043,777 reported violent crimes.  This was 9.0 percent higher than the 957,537 violent crimes reported between 2009 and 2014.

In these same periods, Humboldt County an increase of 29.2 percent.  But in these same periods, Mendocino County - which is similar culturally and geographically to Humboldt - actually had a decrease of 3.2 percent.

Given that the periods in question are divided by the year the current administration took office, do you still believe that no changes are needed in the District Attorney’s Office?  If so, how is this increase in violent crime attributable to something other than the DA’s policies?  If not, what would you do to change the way the DA’s Office handles violent crimes?

 

— Roger

Responses

Michael Acosta

     I agree with you. Yes, major changes are needed in the DA’s office. Although changes in demographics and economics play some role, the policies of the District Attorney’s office are a major factor in the equation that produces violent crime statistics for Humboldt County. Why is this? Because priorities are continuously set by the DA every day in charging decisions, when plea bargains are made, and resources are dedicated (or not dedicated) to the prosecution of violent crimes. Let me give you a real-life example of how not dedicating prosecutorial resources to a case of violent crime might play out.

     On November 15, 2020, Perry Bailey (R.I.P), age 34, and a lifelong resident of Humboldt County, was shot and killed in Somoa, CA. He was unarmed and he was initially shot in his back, so there is really no viable defense, other than the identity of the perpetrators(s). Two men are in custody, and are alleged to have simultaneously shot the victim. One is from Rio Dell, CA and one is from Sacramento, CA. There is information available and it is known that one or both may be affiliated with street and/or prison gangs.

     Law enforcement did its job in apprehending the suspects and gathering any and all material evidence. There were many witnesses to the events before and after the shooting, and more than one witness to the actual incident itself, but when the time came for preliminary examination, only one eyewitness was willing to testify. After her testimony, the two men were held to answer and are now pending trial.  Here’s the problem. The eyewitness who testified at the preliminary hearing has expressed more than once verbally and at least once in writing to the District Attorney’s office that she has received credible information that her life may be at risk due to her expected testimony at trial, and so she requested that the DA’s office utilize California’s Witness Relocation Assistance Program (CalWRAP) to relocate her to a safe and undisclosed location pending her trial testimony.

     A quick digression: The CalWRAP program “provides protection of witnesses and their families, friends, or associates who are endangered due to ongoing or anticipated testimony in gang, organized crime, human trafficking, or narcotic trafficking cases or in other cases that have a high degree of risk to the witness.” The CalWRAP “reimburses California’s prosecutorial agencies for expenses incurred by agencies during the protection of witnesses.” [Hyperlink: California Witness Relocation and Assistance Program | State of California - Department of Justice - Office of the Attorney General] Now, this is different than the District Attorney’s Victim/Witness Program, which has nothing to do with non-victim witnesses, but provides supportive services for victims of crime. The CalWRAP program is the funding to keep the actual eye-witnesses to major crimes safe pending their testimony at trial. If you would, guess how much money has been requested by the Humboldt County DA’s office during the last eight years? The answer is zero. [CalWRAP Annual Report] Am I the only one shocked by this? The 2019-2020 expenditure report from the Attorney General’s CalWRAP program shows that 22 counties utilized CalWRAP that year, and that they were 100% reimbursed on every request submitted. The Lake County DA’s Office, which is smaller than Humboldt by population, requested and received reimbursement in the amount of $5000.88. The Los Angeles County DA’s office requested and received $435,539.91. The report, however, shows no requests from the Humboldt County DA’s office for reimbursement of expenses to keep key eye-witnesses of major violent crimes safe pending trial, nor are there any requests documented during the entirety of the present administration.

     So you can see where my real-life example is going, the District Attorney’s office declined the eye-witness’s request to assist her in remaining safely in the County to testify, and so the only eyewitness willing to testify, feeling that her life was at risk, relocated herself so far out of state that the likelihood of successfully securing her testimony at trial has significantly diminished. Even if she can be located, subpoenaed, and has the ability and willingness to make it back to Humboldt County to testify, there is no excuse for the District Attorney’s office to have not accommodated her request. After all, the entire case against two men alleged to have murdered a lifelong resident of Humboldt County depends on this one witness, and the consequences of not securing her testimony at trial have serious implications. First, two alleged murderers would be set free in downtown Eureka. Second, they would be able to brag to their affiliates that all you have to do to get away with murder in Humboldt County is to intimidate the witnesses, because the District Attorney’s office won’t protect them. This is not the message we want sent back to the streets of Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Humboldt County has largely been insulated from gang violence to date, but we must be prepared for its encroachment in the near future.

     With this in mind, it should be clear that a majority of the DA’s financial and temporal resources should be dedicated to the prosecution of violent crimes. If elected, I guarantee you that every report of time allocation and expenditure for the next four years will reflect that a majority of DA Office’s resources were dedicated to the prosecution of violent crimes, with property crimes consuming most of the remaining half of resources available. It will be a real and significant change. Presently, the majority of prosecutorial resources resources are consumed by merely possessory crimes (which are victimless, at least without speculation), from bullets to brass knuckles to drugs. Contraband can be just as effectively removed from the streets with negligible cost to the public by confiscation without the need for prosecution, which frees up prosecutorial resources for specific-intent crimes with non-hypothetical, actual victims of violent crimes and property crimes. If we confiscate a few bullets found in a felon’s vehicle, we have effectively eliminated the risk that those bullets will be used by the restricted offender. Quite arguably, although I am being somewhat facetious, more bullets would be confiscated, if that is the goal, by leaving a bullet-possessing offender with a search clause on the streets, so that we might continuously seize his illegal bullets. My real point is that you, the voter, have to decide: is the goal removing more bullets from the streets, or putting more bullet possessors in jail? Because dedicating prosecutorial resources just to win the state’s right to spend an additional $100,000 to house that offender for a whole year is absurd. That’s not winning. That’s not progress. That’s spending $100,000 to remove $10 worth of bullets from the streets.

     We need to assess our finite resources in this light. I know that the changes I stand for are large, if not historic, but there is no hope without risk. We will still measure progress in terms of “more is better”(i.e. more bullets, guns, and drugs confiscated, but we will also track the more important heuristics in which “less is better” (i.e. victims suffering injury, value of property lost or damaged). This is the direction we need to take in order to make sense of our lost criminal justice efforts.

Adrian Kamada

Hey Roger,

This is what this election boils down to.  Under the current administration, violent crime has skyrocketed.  Humboldt County is riding a crime surge of historic proportions.  I am the only candidate that is proposing new ideas to fight this crime trend.  We need a change from the status quo because the current approach to ensuring public safety is not working.  This crime wave impedes our community’s ability to thrive economically, socially, and culturally.  

My mission is to reverse the crime trend, thereby unlocking our community’s potential, by methodically establishing cultural and structural changes to the D.A.’s office so that it is a modern prosecution office with the capacity and flexibility to meet the significant challenges we face.

At the center of my practical proposals is prioritizing cases so that we focus resources on serious and violent crime.  For more details, please read my “Vision” outline, which is available at https://www.ak4da.com/vision.

Respectfully,

Adrian Kamada

Stacey Eads

Dear Roger,

Thank you for your question. I am familiar with the statistics from  the California Department of Justice, and I would like to dive into some of those numbers a bit more to give you a better sense of what crime we’re experiencing and addressing here in Humboldt. 

Overall, you will see a number of significant declines in use of violent weapons during the commission of crimes, which is arguably attributable to DA Fleming’s particularly tough stance on offenders who arm themselves with a weapon.  Clearly, the District Attorney’s Office has fought back against serious and violent crimes here in Humboldt County. 

In 2015, Humboldt County had 12 homicides; in 2020, there were 9, a decrease of 25%.  Also, in 2015, there were 55 rapes or attempted rapes; in 2020, there were 61, an increase of about 10%. 

In 2015, there were 122 robberies; 2020 saw 129, an increase of about 5%. However, there was a sharp decrease in robberies committed by an offender armed with a firearm, from 32 in 2015 down to 24 in 2020, a decrease of 25%.  Robberies committed by offenders armed with a knife went from 19 to 18 over the same period, and robberies with other weapons fell from 22 to 17. However, there was a dramatic increase in unarmed robberies, going from 49 all the way up to 70.  

While aggravated assaults as a whole increased from 350 to 431, those which most dramatically increased in occurrence are unarmed aggravated assaults, which spiked from 62 to 198.

Thankfully, aggravated assaults committed by offenders armed with firearms fell from 57 down to 27.  Aggravated assaults committed by offenders armed with a knife essentially plateaued, with a slight change from 61 to 63, and aggravated assaults committed with the use of other weapons made a sharp decline from 170 to 143.  

What the numbers tell me is that for both robberies and aggravated assaults, criminals are much less likely to be committing these crimes while armed with firearms or other weapons, and much more likely to commit them unarmed. This is improvement.  Victims of robberies or aggravated assaults are much more likely to be able to defend themselves against unarmed attackers, and are more likely to survive assaults, without significant injuries, against unarmed attackers.  

Finally, the property crime numbers plummeted from 2015 to 2020. In 2015, there were 4,400 property crimes; and in 2020, there were 3,464. That’s still too many.  However, we have cut the property crime number by 25% in just five years. That is significant progress.

The statistics discussed above pertain to crimes reported by local law enforcement agencies to DOJ, and therefore may vary from the number & type of crimes actually charged by the District Attorney.  For folks reviewing this reply who might want additional information regarding the numbers discussed, I suggest a visit to: openjustice.doj.ca.gov.

As your next District Attorney, I will fight to keep violent crime on the decline. I will fight to hold offenders responsible for property crimes, focusing on repeat offenders who steal from our community members and businesses.  Violent criminals will be taken off our streets.  I will make our community safer and hold offenders accountable.

To learn more about my candidacy for District Attorney, including the 20+ years of prosecution experience, integrity and commitment I will bring as the District Attorney, please visit: staceyeads4da.com.

Sincerely,

Stacey Eads