News & Publications

Advisory board discusses violent crimes, shoplifting and registering parties

"By Meredith J. Cooper 
meredithc@newsreview.com

This article was published on 05.10.18.

 

Chico Police Chief Mike O’Brien told the Police Community Advisory Board Monday that he’s working on a party-registration ordinance.

The most unexpected news to come out of the Police Community Advisory Board meeting on Monday (May 7) came after the regular agenda had concluded and Mike Campos, owner of Campos Properties, approached the lectern to address the panel. His concern was with crime in the south campus neighborhood. It needs to be addressed with real solutions, he said, such as the cameras on the bike path, which had an immediate effect on safety.

He referenced the two stabbings that occurred just last weekend in the south campus area as evidence that something more needs to be done. That’s when Police Chief Mike O’Brien made what he called a premature announcement: He’s working on a party-registration ordinance, which would require organizers of any gathering over a certain size (there are no specifics yet) to register with the city ahead of time to avoid penalties.

In O’Brien’s mind, Chicoans aren’t the problem—it’s out-of-towners. When Chico State changed its spring break schedule to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day; when law enforcement agencies allied to ban booze on the Sacramento River over Labor Day weekend; when police cracked down on Halloween festivities—all those efforts helped make Chico less attractive to out-of-town revelers, O’Brien said. “The last dinosaur,” he said, borrowing a phrase from Campos, “is the open party.”

This wouldn’t be the first time Chico PD has tried to crack down on house parties. Over a decade ago, the city attempted to pass a similar ordinance—then dubbed the “safety plan ordinance,” requiring gatherings of more than 100 people, or those that would impact traffic, to register a safety plan with the city ahead of time. That didn’t come to fruition and instead morphed into the controversial Disorderly Events Ordinance. Since then, the city amended that law, dubbed it the Unruly Gatherings Ordinance, and added language to better hold party organizers and landlords accountable. In the past year, Chico police have issued 15 citations for unruly gatherings.

The board will take up the issue again at its next meeting in September, chair Jovanni Tricerri told the CN&R. That meeting will be held on campus.

The main topic on the agenda Monday night was the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act, which is currently in the signature-gathering stage in order to qualify for the November ballot. O’Brien characterized it as closing loopholes opened by recent prison realignment legislation—Assembly Bill 109 and Propositions 47 and 57. For example, he said, that legislation narrowly defines “violent crimes” and has allowed for the early release of prisoners convicted of things like felony domestic violence, rape by intoxication and felony assault with a deadly weapon.

“Are we at least in agreement that those really are bad, bad offenses?” O’Brien asked the room. Everyone seemed to agree. He added that the City Council had supported the initiative by unanimous vote.

According to Ballotpedia, law enforcement is largely in favor of the initiative, while the American Civil Liberties Union, which backed Prop. 47, is listed in opposition.

Katie Simmons, president and CEO of the Chico Chamber of Commerce, said her organization is backing the initiative and is an official signature-gatherer.

That made for a good segue into the evening’s second topic of discussion, the Retail Watch program launched earlier this year and spearheaded by the chamber. It aims to empower local retailers to report and prosecute shoplifters.

The discussion came up during regular chamber business walks, Simmons explained, when it became apparent that shoplifting was a growing problem—one that affected one major retailer, she said, by $250,000 a year. But many stores weren’t reporting the crimes, either because they felt the Chico Police Department wouldn’t respond or because of policies that prevented employees from stopping suspected shoplifters.

“That $20 bottle of vitamins may not be worth chasing a person down for, but it is … because that person may have felony warrants, or may be in a stolen vehicle,” said O’Brien.

Simmons said retailers are working together to alert each other of potential issues. They are also working to better quantify losses due to theft. That’s encouraging, she said. Any shops interested in learning more about Retail Watch should call the chamber—membership is not required to participate."

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