For the Wasco Tribune
The first City Council meeting of the year Tuesday night focused on the issue of public safety in Wasco.
Council members hoped to shed light on rising numbers of gun crimes, and an apparent increase in general crime in the community. Thirteen community members attended the Zoom meeting.
“It’s unfortunate,” said City Manager Daniel Ortiz- Hernandez. “But it’s important our residents know that the California criminal justice system is at fault.”
Ortiz-Hernandez prepared a lengthy Powerpoint presentation to help educate the public about the recent changes in the state judicial system how it is affecting the quality of life.
In October 2011, the California Public Safety Realignment Act went into effect, reducing overcrowding in prisons and cutting the state corrections budget. An estimated 45,000 felons were transferred to county and local jails.
In 2016, Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act allowed the state to provide for the early release of up to 30,000 criminals convicted of “nonviolent” felonies. The presentation noted that some of the crimes considered nonviolent included assault with a deadly weapon or force likely to cause great bodily injury and domestic violence, battery with serious bodily injury, inflicting corporal injury on a child, and rape/sodomy/oral copulation of unconscious person or by use of date rape drugs.
And last month, the California Supreme Court ruled that “certain sex offenders are eligible for early parole.”
These changes are egregious, Ortiz-Hernandez emphasized. “We are in an unfortunate position. The criminal justice system has failed us, and now we are to deal with the ramifications as best we can.”
As a parent and family man, the city manager feels the urgency and is grateful for the ongoing discussions among his his peers. “We recently participated in a roundtable discussion with other administrators in the community on how we can partner up and implement a strategy.”
When asked for his hopes of the new year, Mr. Ortiz-Hernandez replies, “I hope we will sustain this momentum and create awareness of the current crime justice system.”