VICTORVILLE, Calif. (news release) — Citing frustration with crime throughout the High Desert, an eclectic group of private citizens have joined forces to help empower local residents throughout the region with information to take greater responsibility for their personal safety and security.
Started by Victorville resident Michael Stevens, President of Stevens Consulting Services, the coalition named Citizens for Safer Communities held its inaugural meeting November 28, 2017, and is in the process of planning as its first effort a series of educational sessions in conjunction with representatives from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
“The tremendous support we’ve received thus far from the Sheriff’s Department is a strong indication that they need our help,” said Stevens. Representatives from the Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s office were also in attendance at the November meeting.
“The partnerships between the sheriff’s department and our community stakeholders are essential to public safety. It is important that coalitions comprised of community groups, nonprofits, businesses, and private citizens all embrace public safety as a shared responsibility,” said Lt. Sarkis Ohannessian, Sheriff’s Public Affairs Division Commander.
“We cherish our working relationships with the various citizen groups in our county that can help us build lasting solutions and improve the well-being of our communities,” Ohannessian added.
Stevens cites several state propositions that have made it easier for criminals to operate because of minimal consequences for their actions, and thus the need for residents to become more pro-active. Several of the propositions Stevens referenced involves 47 and 57. Proposition 47, passed in November 2014 reduced penalties for some nonviolent crimes, including simple drug possession and petty theft, from low-level felonies to misdemeanors. It also lowered criminal sentences by reducing them from felonies that can bring long prison sentences to misdemeanors that instead bring up to a year in jail.
Proposition 57, passed in 2016 drastically shortened prison sentences and allows early paroles for legally defined nonviolent prisoners in exchange for certain achievements and good behavior.
“Law enforcement’s hands are tied; they arrest criminals and in short order the criminals are back out on the street—if they serve anytime at all,” said Stevens. He believes that because law enforcement is outnumbered by criminals it’s more important than ever for residents to take steps to lower their risks of becoming a crime victim.
In an Op-Ed penned last June by Stevens he indicated that “we can no longer rely on traditional methods to make our neighborhoods safer.” This served as his inspiration to create Citizens for Safer Communities.
Stevens contends that instead of the public waiting for crime to occur and then contacting law enforcement, the public has to work in closer partnership with law enforcement and focus more attention on prevention (doing things to reduce their crime risks) and support law enforcement by becoming the extra eyes and ears and report suspicious, unusual behavior before a crime is committed.
“I think community education is important, we must focus the efforts of the Coalition on a personal level. The people want to know what tools they will receive immediately to help themselves or they will not participate, said coalition member and local attorney Diana Carloni-O’Malley. “People want impact, action, visual return, not words. Our grassroots efforts need to be at grassroots level, not social services level,” she added.
Stevens credits Joseph W. Brady, President of Bradco Companies and Victor Valley College Trustee, with keeping the focus on the need to address crime in the High Desert through a series of Opinion Editorials the past few months and Facebook Live meetings conducted with local media.
The Coalition is led by a Steering Committee consisting of Joseph W. Brady, Don Brown, Diana Carloni-O’Malley, Carolina Gabeldon, Catherine Haney, Frecia Johnson and Michael Stevens.
The public is invited to the next Citizens for Safer Communities coalition meeting, set for Thursday, February 1 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at Desert Valley Charitable Foundation, 16850 Bear Valley Road (the northeast corner of Bear Valley & 2nd Street) in Victorville (in front of Desert Valley Hospital). Dates, times and locations for the proposed educational sessions are still being coordinated with San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and will be announced soon.