Safe and Sound: City of Modesto’s Public Safety
Modesto is a city of challenges when it comes to public safety. Assistant Police Chief Rick Armendariz said it himself that we have a plethora of challenges to face, and insufficient resources to address them. In spite of the obstacles, two task forces have been formed to serve and support a community in need.
The Safer Neighborhood Advisory Board
In addition to being the Assistant Police Chief, Armendariz is head of the Safer Neighborhood Advisory Board— a task force created out of what Armendariz identified as “a failure.” Measure G was a general sales tax measure on the ballot Nov. 3, 2015.
If approved, Measure G would have given the city authorization to increase Modesto’s sales tax rate by half of one percent for eight years. The language on the measure asked voters if they wanted to authorize the increase to fund the “Safer Neighborhoods Initiative.” The measure was eventually defeated, but the Safer Neighborhood Advisory Board remained.
“The tax failed and there wasn’t a need for the board. However, Chief Carroll — since we had the board established — wanted to utilize it for the Safer Neighborhood initiative,” Armendariz said, referencing Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll. “We have a lot of challenges in this city. We still have a lot of work to do in government, even if the Measure failed.”
So, then — how to mediate the gap between resources and challenges? Armendariz recommended community outreach and engagement. The board is only one of countless ways the police are reaching out and partnering with area businesses and Modesto citizens.
“We don’t have the resources we need to take on the challenges that we have,” said Armendariz. “We can do that through working with nonprofits, working with businesses, and working with residents.”
The goal is to have representatives from different segments of the community. Armendariz explained that they consider Modesto to have four quadrants — four different areas of command. That way, instead of having to worry about a whole city, someone is staffed in each area of command. The board itself has four residents who are Neighborhood Watch captains, and each of them represents a different quadrant of the city.
There are representatives from the education system, from residential areas, from businesses and labor councils, and retired law enforcement. This way representatives of the community would act as a sounding board before launching any initiatives.
“The intentions were to have a vast diversity of representation on the Advisory Board,” said Armendariz, “To help the government be more community-oriented, we intended for the board to help us enhance partnerships and collaboration. We want to increase quality of life and reduce crime.”
So many of the challenges in Modesto aren’t solely a police issue, Armendariz states — they’re community issues.
“We want neighbors to look out for each other,” said Armendariz. “We need to look at things differently than we traditionally did. It’s important now more than ever. It’s more than just seeing and looking out for each other. Why is that important? By knowing each other, there’s that trust — that sense of security.”
In fact, Armendariz knows from experience that neighborhoods with Neighborhood Watch groups are more safe than when you drive home and go in the garage, shut the door, and draw the blinds. The safer neighborhood is the aware neighborhood.
The Public Safety Committee
In the same way that the Safer Neighborhood Advisory Board consists of representatives from the community, the Public Safety Committee contains professionals in the field like the chiefs of fire and police, the City Manager, the General Manager of the American Medical Response and the representatives of the public safety labor organizations: The Modesto Firefighters Association and Modesto Police
There are also be several Chamber members participating, with a committee chaired by former Mayor Jim Ridenour. The committee is spearheaded by both Ridenour and Steve Madison, the Vice Chairman of External Operations for the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and the Executive Director of Stanislaus County Affordable Housing Corporation.
“We feel the committee is necessary because the city has attempted twice to pass a tax measure and has not been successful,” said Madison. “We want to use the expertise of the Chamber to identify whether all potential sources of revenue have been fully considered and if not, why? Additionally, we would like to work closely with the city to determine if there are other revenue enhancement opportunities we could employ to help sustain the funding for public safety services. This could be in the form of fees, special tax measures, and other forms of taxation.”
The purpose of the Public Safety Committee will be to focus on public safety and quality of life challenges faced by the businesses and residents of Modesto. Chief among Modesto’s general concerns are vagrancy, the untoward effects of Proposition 47, and public safety funding challenges.
These very funding challenges are precisely what the two task forces aim to work both with and around. As Armendariz said, there are more challenges and fewer resources.
“How do we bridge that gap?” he asked. “Smart policing.
Be more strategic in terms of how we deploy and how
we maximize first.”
Intelligence-Led Policing (ILP) is a tool used to maximize limited resources. They no longer have the staffing to patrol each and every neighborhood. Armendariz wants to ensure that they’re positioned in the places that they’ll be needed, based on their crime history.
Predictive policing relies on a piece of software which uses algorithms to analyze figures of crime history. It pours over 10 years of crime history and the density of crime in certain areas for certain times of day and days of the week to give daily predictions of where crime may occur.
Between both task forces, crime analysts, and ILP, there is a plan set in motion for the general public safety of Modesto. But Armendariz’s words are important to bear in mind:
“Technology can enhance and help us on the streets,” said Armendariz. “And although technology is definitely a resource, it can never replace the need for officers on the streets.”
City of MoDESTO’s Public Safety