By Matthew Barbato, South Pasadena Resident
I’ve written to you previously regarding a similar issue in your reporting on crime and the police department. I’m disappointed to have to be writing again. Your recent article regarding the rise in crime this past year took without question the assertions by Chief Solinsky that a recent ‘controversial’ jail release program is a significant cause in the rate rise and in fact made it the lede of the story. It’s possible his assertion is true, but you provide no evidence of that. It’s also possible that the jail release program has had no, or very little effect on the crime rate.
How do we know?
When reporting on crime in our town, I think you owe it to the community to provide specifics in order to paint a more complete and accurate picture. For instance, what sorts of crime account for the increase and how many additional instances does 8% represent? Are they assaults, rape and murder, or are they petty shoplifting and package thefts.
More importantly, when the Chief provides a laundry list of causes that includes blame on jail release and bail reforms, did he provide any data to support that? How does that get measured? Are there arrest records that indicate which suspects benefited from the jail release program?
We are in a moment of national and local debate about what best constitutes the most effective approach to community safety and one of the most valuable things we’ve learned is that many of the old ideas about how policing and the penal system operate actually make the problems worse. We owe it to ourselves to discuss these issues with open minds, but also some skepticism and curiosity about conventional wisdom. Simply repeating the assertions of the police department, city council or city manager does a disservice to your readers.
The rise in the crime rate is concerning for everyone, although not surprising given the historic economic instability and social alienation so many in our community have endured. Providing the proper context is essential for the community to understand the personal risks we face and more urgently, what is the best way forward in providing the safest community for all.
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